Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 36 - August/September 2010 > Careless Words (by Annette Stafford)

Careless Words

by Annette Stafford

Careless Words - Think first, no need to regret later

The other day I was driving down our street when this large 4WD coming from the other direction appeared too close over on my side of the road.

I gestured to them with great authority and with the aid of large hand signals to Get Over Your Own Side of the Road .   As the car passed me I looked at the driver rather like eye contact made between two male dogs prior to a fight.  The driver, a woman, caught my eye as she passed my car.

I was shocked to acknowledge that the driver looked very much like the woman I had observed moving into the house across the street directly opposite us whom I had yet to meet.  And yes, I recall she did have a large silver 4WD.

I was immediately hounded by my overtly aggressive act of gesturing the vehicle to move over.

I felt sick in the stomach.  How rude had I been?  What would her impression of me be?

What could I say to her to excuse myself.   Various excuses started to go through my mind.

"Oh Hi, So glad to meet you and so pleased that I was able to alert you to the little animal that had dangerously wandered onto the middle of the road just where you were driving.  You didn't hit him did you?" OR….

"Oh Hi, Was that you in the car that I was warning about the police doing an instant check on our road to ensure cars were in their respective lanes?  I hope I saved you an unnecessary and expensive fine."

It bugged me through the night.  I lay awake still thinking about it.

Any way I cut it, it wasn't good.

On our recent trip to Port Douglas we arrived on the day of our daughter's birthday.  They had arrived from overseas on the same day and we decided we would go to a local restaurant for a meal in celebration of our family reunion and also for our daughter's  birthday. 

During the course of our dinner I noticed a woman from another table watching us.  I thought she must have been looking on, watching how happy we all must seemed.  My husband and I were in our element being with family and particularly our grandchildren.  Our grand daughter was thrilled with our arrival and couldn't get enough of us.

As the woman left she walked up to my daughter who was holding her young baby and made a comment.  I thought she was paying us a compliment.  Instead my daughter's face dropped.  The woman had chastised her for having her little children out telling my daughter they should be in bed and questioning her fitness as a Mother.  My poor daughter was devastated and her birthday night tainted by this woman's careless remark.  My husband and I stood by in shock and disbelief at the woman's rudeness.  She had  known nothing about our daughter.  She may well have been on the edge and the comment the woman made may have tipped her. 

After the woman left our daughter spent much of the rest of the night wishing she had told the woman she was on overseas time and the children were very well looked after.  The comments had cut her deeply and it was a sad finish to a lovely night.

Why do we behave this way?  Why is it ok to chastise someone whom we don't know and hold them to account for their behaviour and yet exercise considered restraint if its someone we know?

I think the answer to this is We do it because we are anonymous, We aren't accountable and we can get away with it. 

We don't do it to people we know better because we want them to like us and think good of us.

If we were told that our actions in a single day were going to be filmed for a National Television Program how would this affect our behaviour, do you think?

My bet is that we would all want to be seen in our best light and even if provoked we would be the model of reason.

If the camera was on us, would we speed up in our car and not allow the other car to push its way in front of us? 

I don't think so.  I think we would exercise kindness and restraint.  We would like the world to see us in a good light.

In Job 28.24 we read that God looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens"

He sees everyone's actions-even those who wrong us.  In Job 34.21 "For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps"

I am on life's learning curve and, with the help of my faith, I am constantly checking myself.  As it turned out by the time I did meet my new neighbour from over the road I decided not to mention the car incident because maybe it wasn't her.  In any event I had no excuse for being so authoritarian and arrogant but, in fact, I was grateful for the experience. 

It taught me a lesson.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 36 - August/September 2010 > Careless Words (by Annette Stafford)