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Picking and choosing

January 19, 2010
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29
Four letter words of the expletive variety have never really been part of my vocabulary. Sure, I knew about them, but they weren’t words used in my home growing up and they never really held much appeal. In high school and university, I was the friend people tried not to swear around. And it cost you 25 cents if you swore in my car. “Our language is rich with words,” I would tell my passengers. “Don’t ruin it by swearing.” Yup, I drove on the high road and left curse words in my dust.
And then… and then… three months ago I joined a women’s basketball league. And I discovered – with horror – that I can be a bit of a potty mouth. Maybe it’s the heat of the game. Maybe it’s the example set by my teammates. Or maybe, just maybe, my language is not as wholesome as I thought. But missed shots, bad plays, and elbows to my nose released from me words I didn’t even know I knew. What shock – what a horrifying surprise to be so offended by someone’s string of profanities only to realize…that they came from me.
“How was the game?” my husband asked when I came home from my first night of basketball.
“We won,” I said. “But I swore.”
The second game was no better. In fact, it was worse as the curse words leapt from my mouth even louder than before. Same with the third and fourth games. Each night I left the gym – no matter having won or lost – feeling ashamed of my loose tongue and my clumsy choice of words.
Then one day, God – in His infinite wisdom and, perhaps, tired of my dirty mouth – gave me the words from Ephesians: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” I read. I immediately cringed and repented (again). But because no admonishment is given without guidance, I read on: “...but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
In basketball (as it is in any team sport) there is lots of room for edification. Teammates need cheering. Refs need encouragement. (It’s true, they do.) The opposing team needs to hear they’re providing good challenges. Bad games can turn to good with a positive attitude, some laughter, and good cheer. Sure, this sounds like no arena or gymnasium you have ever been in before…but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Even if it’s only in the gym I’m playing in, I would much rather be an example of grace than of grime.
So I’m cleaning up a mess I never thought I would make. In that split second of play, I’m making my effort to turn a harsh negative into an encouraging positive. Our language is rich with words…I just need to pick the right ones and give grace to those who hear.
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