It happens and it hurts. Recently, I have been shown some truly devastating character flaws in my own heart and behavior. I have hurt people that I love and was completely and totally unaware that my words had cut and discouraged and in some ways demeaned and disrespected precious servants of Christ seeking to serve him with passion and zeal.
And it wasn't just a one-time thing. Others have pointed out a pattern that I was completely blind to. They have given unescapably true examples of how my words have injured.
It is one thing to say that you know that your heart is wicked and in need of an every-moment-rescue, but it is another to see the evidence put right in front of your face and see the devastating effect of your words.
This is particularly true for a man who has probably preached on Ephesians 4:29 more than any other text of Scripture. Now I find that in important ways, I have failed and failed miserably to "only speak that good word which is necessary for the moment," the word that edifies the hearer by giving grace to them for the challenges of their lives. When the preacher doesn't practice what he preaches it is a devastating thing for the sheep.
The fact that it was not my intention. The fact that I thought all was well. The fact that I never, in my heart, disrespected, devalued, or intended to discourage. The fact that I thought all was well and that my friends had no problem with me or my words to them, that in fact they loved me and respected me, counts for nothing. My words hurt them. That is what counts.
I sinned against my brothers and sisters for whom Christ shed His blood. The fact that it was unintentional doesn't transform the cold, hard, knife of my sin into a plastic play toy. And because I was unaware that I was doing it, because my blindness was so complete, it is worse than if I had intended it. Not a worse sin, but worse in its effect.
Being blind myself, my injured brothers/sisters had no way to interpret my words and insensitive behavior than to assume that since it was so obvious to them, I must not care. They traveled easily down the path whose every sign said to them, "He doesn't care about you. He is a hypocrite. He does not practice what he preaches." The fact that I was posting the very signs of my condemnation with my own words was proof. And yet, I was like a non-bilingual American posting streets signs in Russian--unaware of what I was doing.
What happens when unintended sin is committed and it goes un-confronted? It gets worse. At least for the victims it gets worse. They grovel and chafe under their oppressor and learn to "put up with," "cope," and "work around" the unhappiness in their lives. It becomes easier for them to believe the worst. The well from which they drink is continually polluted, discoloring all their perceptions. Meanwhile the oppressor, (me, in this long confession/meditation) blissfully continues to believe that all is well.
What I fool I have been. How great is my need for the Savior!
"Lord Jesus, thank you for the faithful wounds of friends who finally came and tore the whitewash off the wall of my awareness. Bless them and give them boldness and confidence in the future that their efforts to restore their brother have not been in vain. Give them joy in the fruit of this painful process. Help me to lose the scales from my eyes. Make me more careful and conscious of the effects of my words. Make me a better leader. Don't let me spoil the work that You would have me to do. Don't let my life obscure the wonder of the gospel.
O Jesus, please keep me from injuring my friends and brothers. Help me to be a model of repentance. Keep me from hindering the joy of Your people. For the sake of Your glory, my holiness and Your people's testimony of Your greatness and power to transform, I ask this. Amen.