Foot in Mouth Therapy

I realized the other day that I haven’t had the energy to sit down and blog for several months. Somewhere between multiple Google calendars and Facebook and multiple modes of communication life over-shared with me.

But fortunately, I spent the last week with two of my brothers in one of Panama’s beautiful islands Bocas del Toro.  There is nothing like a week with family on an island with your cell phone on airplane mode to revive the lost art of conversation. Talking face to face was great but it also afforded me many opportunities to put my foot in my mouth and to regret the way I communicated my thoughts and feelings. I had to ask for and receive forgiveness for misspoken words. An unexpected side effect was that I found myself wanting to slow down my words from verbal to written. Writing, it seems, as much as I hate it is one of the disciplines I need in my life. Writing compels me to pause, reflect on my day-to-days, and interact with Jesus — in helpful ways. The optimist in me hopes that it all translates eventually into fewer moments of foot-in-mouth.

The realist in me doubts it. For instance, I love movies. No problem except that my opinions of movies sometimes escapes from my mind unfiltered to my mouth. It is not that I regret bringing up my opinions but rather that I regret how and when, and with what tone and posture that I delivery my opinions. Note to self: sometimes it’s OK to leave a movie a movie without critical analyses. It really is.

Anything can turn into a foot-in-mouth moment for me. One happened as we returned to the USA and watched person after person have their fingerprints taken although they had committed no crime. It got me thinking about America’s immigration policies.

The whole issue of immigration is highly politicized and misunderstood by all sides, but it is one that, as a Christian who lives in America I continue to wrestle with. What do I say to a student who wants to go to a conference but can’t fly because he is undocumented? What do I tell a student to do who confides she is undocumented and can’t get a job without false documents? What is my role in the conversation as someone who has never experienced the multiple invasions of privacy that comes with being an immigrant in today’s USA?

Really how do you talk about wrestling with the issue of immigration without putting your foot in your mouth? I don’t know because my first impulse is to rant about the fear based invasion of privacy that affects both immigrants and those of us born here.The problem is that as soon as my rant is over I get this pit in my stomach feeling which is the result of pedi-indigestion.

Anybody share in my pain? I’ve been told that I am too opinionated. I’ve also been told that my bluntness can be liberating, but off-putting. I don’t reject those observations. I want to learn from them because as someone called to teach and preach and lead and learn for the sake of the gospel, I have to communicate well. It does nothing if it’s clear as day in my head but clear as mud coming out of my mouth. Worse if it’s mud slung out of my mouth.

So I continue to struggle to develop my “voice” because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be the angry, religious, guy who can’t just enjoy a movie or let something slide until there is a better time. Perhaps this sounds like something one who “doth protest too much” would say, but I really don’t take life seriously all of the time. I have a lot of fun, and I like to think I am fun to be with.

So here I am writing to make myself slow down and maybe, just maybe, keep my foot where it belongs instead of in my mouth!

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3 thoughts on “Foot in Mouth Therapy”

  1. Your comment is better than my post, Jim! Thanks for your thoughtful response. I particularly like the zen reference – very appropriate.
    Scott had a picture with him with you and swink – great to see those “hippy” hairdos!

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  2. Great post, Tim. And, to quote an ex-President, “I feel your pain.” I have bottled social/political opinions for a long time, have even tried to “stay out of it” with people only to realize that that has not been a good strategy. What I have tried to do (with only a modicum of success) is 3 things.

    First, I try to approach conversations around touchy political issues not as a “knower” but as a “learner”. That does not mean that I don’t share my views but I share them as an invitation to conversation rather than as an attempt on my part to “win an argument”. Sometimes that is easier said than done, in part because the person with whom I am talking isn’t playing the same “game” I am.

    I chalk that up to a cultural loss of civility. With the rise of talk radio, the embrace of the “snarky”, and the belief that everyone is just as expert as everyone else, political views are too often shared as if we are playing a zero sum game. The winner takes the spoils and yet what are the spoils?

    Second, I try to understand political/cultural stuff theologically i.e. in terms of how this or that position, policy or practice is an expression of power and/or ‘the powers.’ This has actually grown out of my experience as a pastor and observing how “power” has managed to reach into the lives of everyone and grind many into a fine powder. I have been witness to the loss of careers, businesses, homes, jobs as well as the disruption of families, marriages, etc. during the past few years and have seen the role that power and economics plays in people’s lives.

    As a result, I’ve tried to not get involved in party politics as much as I have tried to raise questions as to how this or that policy or practice effects real live people down here on lowly “Main Street”.

    Although, as you know, I am follower of Jesus, I have found a good “life principle” in a Zen saying (Roshi): “In the expert’s mind there are few possibilities but in the beginner’s mind there are many”. Trying to maintain a “beginner’s mind” has helped. (And, for me, that’s not too difficult, given that the older I get the dumber I seem to be. :-))

    Third, I try to keep at the forefront the idea that, as someone who is interested in the social/cultural/political issues, I have bigger fish to fry. I do not ever want to offer ideas in a way that could throw an obstacle between myself and another person such that my ‘views’ would become a hinderance to the proclamation to the gospel to them, whether in terms of what I say or do.

    I don’t know how successful I’ve been at that or any of this but, at least, those are the ways I’ve tried to navigate the course between the pull of politics and culture, on the one hand, my own tendencies to speak too quickly and too acerbically, and my desire to display something of Christ in the world.

    Sorry…Didn’t mean to write a dissertation and certainly hope I don’t come off as anything other than a “beginner” and a “learner”.

    Thank you for a thoughtful piece. (And, am glad you had some time with your brothers…all the Hudson boys are “good old boys.” )

    Peace!

    Jim

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