We love to see repentance in others. It brings such joy to see someone change the way they were living, talking, thinking, or acting all because their transformation honors God. We admire that person for taking such radical steps to be conformed into the image of Christ.
But usually, the whole reason that person changed was because somebody put their sin in their face. Somebody showed them an area where their character was sorely lacking. And if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that kind of talk—whether it’s done in love, anger, or frustration—you know it kinda feels like a quadruple root-canal.
If you’re married, dating someone, or even have a roommate or a close friend, I want you to take out a piece of paper, a pencil, a black magic marker, and some duct tape…Go on, I can wait.
Did you get them? Good.
Now, put the marker and duct tape aside for minute, we’ll use them in a minute. First, draw a line down the center of the paper. At the top of the first column write that person’s name—your spouse, beau, housemate or friend. At the top of the second column, write your name. Now go back to the first column and write down every single thing about that person that bugs you. Go ahead. It’s okay. Nobody’s going to see it but you. I promise it will self-destruct five seconds after you finish reading this blog.
Now’s your chance. Lay it out: Do they snore (even when they’re awake)? Do they leave toothpaste or globs of hair in the bathroom sink? Do they leave their dirty underwear all over the house? Do they drive like a maniac or a plow horse? Do they leave dirty dishes in the kitchen sink (for you to wash! Grrr!) Do they have a memory like a steel trap or a trap door? Can they get lost in their own bathroom? Do they have some bizarre tic that drives you insane whenever you’re around them?
Go ahead, get it all out. You’ve been dying to do this. Dying to put it all down so you can finally tell them what you’ve kept bottled up inside, the pressure building like a shaken soda can. Or if you’re brave, maybe you’ve hinted to them about it only to get the rolling of the eyes, the languid shrug, the frown of confusion, or my favorite, the blank stare.
Are you finished?
Okay, that’s enough.
No, really, I mean it.
Okay, one more.
All right. Look at the list. Really look at it. Think of all the times that you have contained your rage over their failings, foibles, or freakiness. Think of all the times you have had to pick up behind them, cleaning up their messes, physical or otherwise. Go ahead, really feel how annoying that is. Imagine yourself telling them off, voicing every issue, quoting in detail each example. Imagine finally getting to tell them exactly how you feel so they would finally change.
Now. Get out the magic marker and put a big X through the whole list.
What? you ask. But…but… I’m finally going to tell them, and they’re finally going to change.
Truth. No, they’re not. Unless…
Look over in Column #2 where your name is. Now I want you to find that person—the one who you love but whom drives you nuts—and ask them what things you do that drive them crazy. What things have they hinted at or flat out begged you to change that you blew off for weeks, months, or even years? What things have they repeatedly said to you that have gone in one ear and out the other? Or better, what things did they ask you to change and you flat out refused because you felt like you knew better or because how they wanted you to be simply “wasn’t you”?
Now, before they answer, take out the duct tape, rip off a good long piece and put it over your mouth. Now let them talk and you write.
Let them get it all out. Yes, I know they seem a little too excited about this. Yes, this is stuff you’ve heard a hundred times before. No, you can’t poke them in the eye with your pencil. Just keep writing. Stop clenching your jaw. I know your hand is cramping, but you’ll survive.
Okay. Now, without removing the duct tape, say thank you in sign language. It looks like the box here. Now, go sit in a closet, bathroom, or other confined space where you can kick and scream and yell and nobody will overhear you and call the police once you’ve ripped the duct tape off your mouth along with your lips and any stray facial hair.
Are you calm yet? Well, take a few deep breaths then. I promise, we’re almost done. You ready?
Here’s my challenge to you. Change. You change first. You change and God will miraculously work to see that other person change.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
The truth hurts. But it also works.
Now put your paper down before it explodes and you burn yourself, and then you have an attitude toward me. I’ve got my own list I’m already working on here, thank you very much.