You know that stuff's not good for you...


Is this for you? The clerk asked, lifting the twelve-pack of sugar-free soda out of the grocery cart and placing it in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner. You know that stuff's not good for you, don't you? She continued as she finished loading my groceries into the car. Studies have shown that diet drinks actually make you gain weight, she added, reaching up to close the hatch door.

Stunned by her audacity, but not gifted with an ability to construct a witty or sarcastic response, I simply thanked her for her help, got in the car and began backing out of the parking space. Did that really happen? I thought. 

I'm sure it's true – the sodas aren't good for me – but we aren't friends or even acquaintances. Why would she think it's okay to share that piece of information with me or that I would be receptive to hearing it?

I watched in the rear-view mirror as she returned the empty grocery cart to the store – the one that sold me that pack of not-good-for-me sodas, and I wondered if I'd just been captured on Candid Camera.  

I may have been taken aback, but the conversation was so surreal that it made me laugh. And truthfully? I was grateful for the help. It had been a long day, and I was only two days past my last Rituxan infusion (to treat my rheumatoid disease). I didn’t feel well and I was exhausted. I don’t normally ask for help with my groceries, but she had noticed my weariness and walked across the parking lot to help me. When I wrote in my gratitude journal that evening, I counted her help as a gift.

But it also made me wonder, have I ever been that bold? 

Scripture tells me that when I speak into the lives of others it should be, only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4.29), and in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). And I have to admit – my words are sometimes neither gentle nor do they offer grace.

I need to remember: Is what I want to say appropriate? Have I earned the right to be heard?  Do I have a relationship with this person that is loving and nurturing? Am I being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings or am I just wanting to share my opinion? And if I'm speaking truth for all the right reasons, am I doing so with gentleness, and will my words build up and give grace?