Points To Ponder Finding The Good

by Pastor Dennis Whitmore

When I pick up the Picket and read my own column I sometimes reflect on my senior high school counselor. Since I began writing for this space, I often hear her words. You would be surprised to know that her words motivate me and make me thankful. Here’s why.

I went to her office one afternoon with a burden on my mind. I had taken part in a new training program that was supposed to help us older teens be able to function as “peer counselors” to the younger ones. I believed that the training had been inadequate for the possibilities that lay ahead. Dealing with people who have problems is serious and I felt we needed some work to be ready for the task.

Her response was something like this: “Well Dennis, if you do not have the confidence in yourself to do this, you should drop out...” I said that confidence in myself was not the issue. I was not confident in the level of training. She again came at me with another personal jab at my own self-confidence. I began to realize through talking to her that the basics of counseling training we had received were clearly not being followed in her dealing with me. As we continued to talk, she continued to not hear what I was trying to explain, and responded with terse, personal slaps through her words. What she said next was incredibly powerful.

Some weeks prior I had written an essay for a $10,000 college scholarship. It was a writing contest. I was the only applicant from our high school, though the senior class consisted of over 400 students. I had handed in my materials to this counselor. She apparently was unimpressed, as I soon discovered. She fired her final shot in reference to my self-confidence, and even competence, for this program; then she turned and aimed her guns at my heart. She said, “...and by the way, you have absolutely no writing talent what so ever!” (referring to my scholarship)

Her words, spoken 25 years ago, are still fresh in my mind.

“You have absolutely no writing talent what so ever!”
This is a point to ponder, especially for some of you who have been crushed by the put downs of a parent, betrayed by the false accusations of trusted friends, or the insulting arrogance and belittling judgments of people in authority to whom you should be able to look for guidance. What you decide to do with the trash other people have thrown at you (or on you) is up to you. You can trip over such stumbling blocks, or you can use them to build. Only you can decide how you will overcome these things by using the lessons they teach; or be overcome by them because you have granted them authority over your heart.

“The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.” Proverbs 11:9 NKJV
The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescue the godly.”
To put it another way, the words of a person who is trying to harm you are destructive. However, you can deliver yourself from their damaging effects if you choose to respond with wisdom. Words can and do inspire or discourage people.

“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due reason, how good it is!”

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” Proverbs 15:23, 28

You cannot control what other people do or say. You can control how much authority you allow their words to have.

“Godliness helps people all through life while the evil are destroyed by their wickedness.” Proverbs 13:6 NLT

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NKJV

So, it is all in how you choose to respond. What has been said, has been said. Shots have been fired - even by people we love and respect. Some have been direct hits. In some cases the harm was done intentionally. A lot of times, it was a mistake in judgment or the result of other stress factors. Still, it does not matter. What you and I do with the junk thrown our way is totally up to each of us.

Remember, piles of garbage can be around and cause disease (or dis-ease), or with a little work you can turn it into compost and grow some really good things with it.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dennis

Pastor Whitmore serves God at The First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.