The first time I remember being called “rude” was in high school. A (perhaps too) honest friend noted that maybe I didn’t have a boyfriend because I was “rude and intimidating.” At the time I took pride in those labels. “Well, if he’s not man enough to talk to me then I don’t want him!”
In middle school, and sadly well into high school, I was embarrassingly boy crazy. It was straight up shameful. There was one boy in particular from church that I just adored. One of my good friends ended up dating him for a while in high school (she was not rude, intimidating, or boy crazy) and I remember hanging out with them (and some others from our youth group) in her basement one night. I must’ve been blabbing on about some “hot guy” or another because the boy I had adored for years finally cut me off with these two questions – “Why do you always talk about things that don’t matter? Why are you always talking about boys?”
I spent the summer after my freshmen year of college in Maryland, near DC. I worked at a church that hired about 20 college students to work with their youth each summer – which is a pretty big commitment to youth. One night I was hanging out with the other college staff at a house belonging to a family from the church. (The congregation at this particular church is made up of pretty wealthy people – which is why the church can afford to hire 20 college students each summer – and this particular house was AWESOME. Like the coolest house I’ve ever been in.) We were deciding what game we wanted to play and when I enthusiastically suggested one I wanted to play, nobody countered me but nobody seemed excited either. The girl hired to work with the college kids (like me) leaned over and said, “Nobody agrees with you but they’re just too scared to say anything.” “Well,” I thought, much like I did in high school, “if they’re too wimpy to speak up, then I get my way! Fine by me!”
I spent the summer after I graduated college in Brooklyn with YouthWorks. Part of our job was handing out adult leader and youth evaluations. Once everyone was gone, we would go over the evaluations, looking for suggestions/complaints on which we could improve for the following week. One time in particular an adult leader basically called me by name as being “rude” and “cold.” By this time I was getting the point. But for the first time in my life, I actually started to THINK that summer – “Do people need to buck up or do I need to change something?”
I decided/realized that maybe it was me that needed to change. Because I’m not in charge of other people, I’m only in charge of myself. The tricky thing was I was rarely intentionally rude. I’m just to the point, I suppose, and because I’m thick-skinned and adverse to beating around the bush I assume everyone else is. Finally I just had to ask those around me, “Hey guys, can you tell me when I’m being rude so I can realize it? Because I promise I don’t mean it!”
Now after almost two years of consciously trying not to be rude, I honestly feel less rude. Some of that is YouthWorks, both summers of it. The first summer pointed out the plank in my eyes. Then, last summer I had a great supervisor who gave me practical and simple tips for communicating truths with love (love that the hearer can feel, that is, because to me communicating in truth is communicating in love).
You see, I needed concrete changes that I could make. I needed a check list*, which is hard when “not being rude” is such an abstract thing.
(*My pastor has been preaching through Galatians and really hitting hard the whole grace versus the law thing and so admitting that I wanted a check list for not being rude makes me feel like such a Galatian. While checking off lists won’t get me into heaven, it will help me be better while I’m waiting for it.)
Then, finally, I found it. I found a check list to not being rude. And I found it where everyone goes to find everything.
Now, like the three times today kind of now, before I speak I often stop to THINK. I’ve always been really good at the “Is it True?” part. Yes, it’s true that you teenage girls need to quit being so whiny because you came on this mission trip to actually do something not just sit around all day on your phones, RIGHT? That’s true. But you can’t stop there! Sometimes, often times, truth does need to be communicated, but the second question – “Is it Helpful?” – has proven to be well, helpful. Will communicating this truth be helpful in this moment? I am proud to say that I can think of specific times within the last month that a little thought (about someone else) popped into my mind and before it could pop out of my mouth I asked myself, “Would saying that right now help the situation?” Then I interrupted myself, “But it’s true!” Then I asked myself again, “But is it helpful?”
To be honest the other three letters aren’t as important to me, but Inspiring words are always the best kind of words and Necessary kind of goes along with Helpful in my mind. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and very important, but I try not to expect too much of myself. Heh.
Overall my lessons on bridling my tongue and not being rude are carried out through the THINK acronym. I literally mentally ask myself these questions (like I said, mostly the first two) before speaking very often. And I’m thankful that I finally found a check list to help me recover from my status as rude girl. I’m sure those around me are thankful, too.
If you’re a rude girl/boy and you’re thinking about recovery but this check list seems too daunting (I mean, FIVE questions to ask myself? Plus I have to remember an acronym?!), maybe this little rhyme will serve you better (also found on Pinterest):