As women, we must be careful to watch how sensitive we are toward others. If there’s one thing most women need to work on, it’s not being touchy in relationships—especially with other ladies. I can testify that I have been too touchy and overly sensitive in past relationships, and how difficult it was! Oh, I fret at remembering my mistakes and how I messed things up with other women, especially in the beginning. I was insecure and defensive, and it caused trouble that I regret.
Love…is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy… (1 Corinthians 13:5)
I have a funny story to share, but I should be ashamed to write it down. I have to laugh about how silly I’ve been! Otherwise, I might cry when I reflect upon some of the awful ways I’ve handled situations with others.
Here’s what happened. My husband and I were hosting our first mission trip—we were driving a team of college students from Indiana to South Padre Island, Texas during spring break. What a long ride for us! We drove over a thousand miles to our destination, and picked up a few more students flying in from another state before we finally settled in at our hotel on the island.
Our team was wonderful, and we enjoyed times of ministry daily on the local beach where we shared our faith with anyone who would listen.
One evening, however, we were all enjoying some downtime in our hotel room (we were all staying together in a hotel suite) when my husband and I decided we might like to take a little afternoon siesta. Others were doing the same thing, because we all needed some rest after our time in the hot sun ministering.
As we were sleeping, Scott and I awoke intermittently and noticed that our room seemed to be getting warmer and warmer. We were so groggy that we really didn’t think anything of it and continued to roll over and go back to sleep time after time. But when it came time to wake up for dinner, we were sweating profusely and wondered what happened to the air conditioning.
We walked into the main room of the suite, and found our team relaxing and talking together…they inquired about our naptime. We explained how hot it was in our room, and they acted surprised, but seemed to find it really funny. After egging us on a little, one of the team members confessed that it was her idea to turn up the heat in our room for a practical joke. She laughed, and thought it was a hilarious.
Well, I forgot to mention before that during that entire week, my stomach was upset and I was totally nauseous and couldn’t figure out why (I didn’t know until the following week that I was pregnant with our first child, Isaac.) Not feeling well made me a little grumpy and irritable; so, this little shenanigan with the thermostat really got my feathers in a ruffle.
I simply couldn’t hide my anger—I didn’t think it was funny at all. I didn’t erupt all at once, though. It was after some inner reflection that I became more and more upset. After all, who would think of doing such a childish thing?
You see, practical jokes are hard for me to wrap my arms around…I am normally the last one in the room to understand a joke, or a play on words, etc. I usually laugh politely for two reasons: I don’t want to seem like the only one who doesn’t get it and I don’t want the joke teller to feel silly if I don’t laugh. Moreover, when I try to relay a joke that I’ve recently heard, I only mess it up and it makes no sense for the listener. Experience has taught me to keep my mouth shut when it comes to joke telling...I can't really execute practical jokes, either. But why did it seem so funny to her?
Well, that night at dinner, the whole thing came up in conversation right before our evening group devotion time. Now was the time to let my feelings out! I told her in a stern voice that she was going to reap what she had sown, and that she needed to treat others the way that she wanted to be treated. The others in our group were now watching and listening with gaping mouths as we sat around the table—they couldn’t believe their ears! I assured her that God would deal with her about this improper behavior. Why my husband didn’t silence me at this point, I’m still unsure.
We stumbled ahead into our devotion time, where it was my turn to share the Word of God with our group. I felt some conviction as I shared, and could barely get my words across after all of my ranting.
We finished our time together, but one student stayed behind because she wanted to talk with me. I invited her to share her thoughts, and she told me that she couldn’t receive the Word from me that night after what I had just said to her friend. At first, I didn’t see her point of view. After calming down and hearing her out, however, I understood that I totally overreacted to the situation and mishandled things. I later made an apology not only to the master of the thermostat, but to the whole team. All were forgiving, and it didn’t negatively impact our week of ministry, thank the Lord.
This is what I learned: ladies, we have to calm down before speaking our minds! I strongly advise you to take a moment (or a lot of them, depending on how mad you are) to reflect before voicing your feelings about something. It can be dangerous ground! Trust me, I know…and how I wish I could re-live those moments in my life. Was I forgiven by all involved in that situation? Yes, but I had such a strong desire to be a good leader and to set a good example for others. I felt like I had really let my team down, and wanted to do better in the future.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, he who rules his [own] spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3)
Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires]. (James 1:19-20)
Another time I called a lady under my pastoral care on the telephone after a weekend retreat. Let’s call her Suzy. Suzy had served as a leader for this particular event. She had said something in a public setting that really upset me—my anger seemed to grow after I returned home to share the situation with my husband. Instead of taking some time to reflect and choose an appropriate way to handle the matter, I immediately called her on the telephone in my fury. I reacted to the situation instead of responding to it—I caused her to cry, and she had every right. Suzy was hurt by my behavior, and I later chose to sincerely apologize for what I had done. My, how I wish I could travel back in time to re-do that one, as well!
The stories above mark extreme cases of sensitivity on my part…but let’s talk about you now.
* Are you offended on Sunday morning if the pastor’s wife doesn’t enter into a conversation with you?
* When you are together with other ladies, do you often feel left out and unwanted if you’re not the center of the conversation?
* If a mentor in your life brings correction to help you succeed, do you become defensive and angry?
* In social settings, do you always expect others to approach you first, and are offended if they do not? (My late pastor always said, “If you want to make a friend, then show yourself friendly.”)
My list could go on and on but hopefully you understand my point. I was able to write down these examples only because I’ve been offended in similar ways firsthand. I know what it feels like to live “touchy” and offended, and I know how good it feels to live free from those things—living free is the better option and the only one that leads to growth and maturity for the believer.
Our Carnal Nature
If you are constantly too sensitive and offended, ask God to help you get over it! That is what I’ve done, and that’s what I do, day to day. Yes, old, carnal feelings try to re-surface in my life and it is my duty to keep “madam flesh” subdued.
All kinds of emotions mark the work of the flesh, or the carnal nature. In the paragraphs that follow, I will use the terms flesh and carnal nature interchangeably.
Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21).
The emphasis added in the verses above is my own…did you realize that these strong emotions are works of the flesh? For some time in my life, I supposed that it was probably the work of the enemy when I acted out in these ways—the devil was attacking me! I blamed it all on him, when in fact, in was me and my own choices playing out in the situation.
When we are too touchy and sensitive with others it easily leads to enmity, strife, and divisions within the Body of Christ. It’s as if the first negative emotion leads to another, and before you know it you’re caught up in the land of the carnal. That’s why it’s so important that we get a hold of ourselves and work with the Holy Spirit to change this wrong behavior. Listen, when it affects others, it’s important to deal with! Letting these kinds of emotions rage out of control hinders the entire Body of Christ, even if we don’t mean for it to be this way.
We must take control of the flesh:
Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever.] (Romans 8:6)
So then, brethren, we are debtors, but not to the flesh [we are not obligated to our carnal nature], to live [a life ruled by the standards set up by the dictates] of the flesh. (Romans 8:12)
(This article is an excerpt from the book Leading Ladies in the House of God by author Brigit Lee.)
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