Recently I got an earful from a woman who, I'm assuming, thought she was just good-naturedly spilling the beans. But these weren't good, wholesome Arabica beans she was pouring out to everyone around her. She had ground up the bare nuggets of her story and was spilling out the juicy details to anyone in earshot. All of this is coffee house talk for "she was saying too much, way too much!" By the time her tirade was over and done with I'm pretty sure everyone around her felt like we had coffee stains all down our shirts and we needed to go wash up. It was not a pretty sight. Or sound.
My diagnosis? This woman had forgotten to use her filter.
Not too long ago I made coffee for my Bible study class and forgot to put the coffee in the filter. We ended up with nothing more than hot water with a hint of old coffee taste in it.
But this woman spilled the beans without putting them through the filter first.
Filters are just as important in our conversations as they are in making a good pot of coffee. Using the proper filter results in conversation that is smooth, energizing, appealing, and easy to digest. But when we don't use the right filters to sift our words we end up saying things that are offensive, bitter, and hard to swallow.
This morning I read in my daily Bible reading:
Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
This is the scripture my mom's Sunday school class recites together every week as they dismiss class. These women are in their ...um...well they're older than me. And they still know to use a good filter. They know how difficult it is, how tempting it is to just spill the beans unbridled by discernment or good judgment. I'm sure that, like the rest of us, these women have had their gossip sessions, their husband bashing moments, their sharp witted criticisms, their roasted Pastor dinners, their spewing sessions...but they realize that's not best. And so each week they commit to each other and the Lord who is in their presence that they will filter their words through Him.
How exactly do you use this filter? You choose your words carefully, like well chosen and especially aromatic coffee beans. You realize that not everything that enters your mind needs to exit through your mouth. Instead you aim to brew up only that which really needs to be said - that which edifies, blesses, gives grace, and glorifies God. And you run it all by Him first.
You know what that means? It means we'll have to think before we speak. It means we'll have to listen twice as much as we speak. And it means there will undoubtedly be a lot of things that we want to say, but we don't. We'll show a little constraint, some good judgment.
To me, a good spilling of the beans means that I'm being transparent, real, and honest about my own flaws and hurts and struggles. But when I spill the beans I need to be careful that I only spill my beans and not someone else's. And even then I need to filter out anything that would trigger gossip, offend others, initiate speculation, or sow the seeds of contempt. That way, when I spill the beans we're all able to drink it down like a good cup of smooth coffee instead of choking on the unsifted grounds of gossip, criticism, sarcasm, or any other brand of ugliness.
So let's all commit to using our filters. It'll help a latte!