You’ve Reached Your Limit

Are you done?

The question boomed from the head of the kitchen table as dinner neared its end. We knew it was ending because food consumption decreased and conversation increased. And increased.

Richard would direct his question to the most verbal culprit, and if they hesitated with their answer, they were dismissed from the table with the old “heave-ho” gesture. We filtered through them one at a time until the last of our five children lost interest in enlightening us with their discourse.

During the 90’s, that was the scene at our dinner table. Every. Single. Evening.

They are a conversational clan, our five. I love them dearly, but there were days when their words resounded in my head until I thought it would explode. If only there had been a limit to what they could say each day. Yes, a limit would have been appreciated. 

I don’t appreciate all limits, though. Like the one in an email a couple of days ago notifying me I had reached the page limit in my printer ink plan. I subscribe to a plan that mails me ink cartridges when mine are nearly empty. I pay monthly based on the number of pages I expect to print. Lately I’ve been surpassing my expectations.

I’ve been exceeding my limit.

I had the option, my email reminded me, to upgrade to the next (more expensive) level of the plan. But, if I chose not to upgrade I could still print at an additional cost. Either way, my excess would cost me. I tried to avoid the additional expense by limiting the number of pages I printed. Printer budgeting. Did I really need to print that, or could I save the document to access electronically? Most often I found I could avoid printing. And each time it forced me to evaluate the need before I printed.

Think before I print.

The notification of reaching my limit came at an opportune time for helping me learn a lesson. It was the early stages of a 30-day challenge I had begun. The challenge, “The Power of Words“,  reinforced another challenge I undertook earlier in the year called “The Ten Day Word Fast“. Both were reminders to think before I speak.

After receiving my ink-limit email, I began reading my daily Power of Words challenge, and it posed this question:

What can you do today to help take control of your words and use them for good?

My first thought was of my friend Joy. She lives by the mantra “practice the pause”, and she has this framed quote by TobyMac in her office. She’s a master of the pause.

TobyMac Practice the Pause

If I can think before I print, I can think before I speak. I can practice the pause.

But, what if I took it even further? What if I placed a limit on the number of words I allowed myself to speak each day?

Now, I know that’s impossible. I can’t count each spoken word, but I can live by the concept of a saying I’ve heard.

Not everything that crosses your mind has to pass through your lips.

I’m trying to implement that concept. I’m trying to consider every sentence before I speak. I’m even imagining that each sentence has either positive or negative value, because that’s much of what the 30-day Power of Words challenge is about. If I speak positive words, I carry over a bonus of word usage into tomorrow. If I speak destructive words, they count double against my daily word limit. And for someone who likes to talk as much as I do, the prospect of being told I have to stop talking isn’t pleasant.

This whole idea of a word limit isn’t so much about quantity as it is quality. If I were limited in the number of words I could speak each day, I would use each word more carefully, being sure to get the most value for my verbiage. I would be more careful about the effect of my words and who they spotlighted. And one thing I notice when I carefully evaluate my words is how often I use the word “I”. I notice how much of my conversation is all about me.

That’s the definition of arrogance: when it’s all about me.

Arrogance was the next word/condition I dealt with in the unpacking of my spiritual backpack.

[Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:20-23, NIV

Arrogance – Huperephania G5243: self-exaltation (self-absorption) which carries its own self-destructive vanity. Pride. Haughtiness. Disdain. The characteristic of one who, with a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others and even treats them with insolence and contempt. Properly: excessive shining.

The Greek word for arrogance is closely related to Huperephanos G5244, meaning: showing oneself above others, overtopping, conspicuous above others, preeminent. Properly: over-shine, trying to be more than what God directs, i.e., going beyond the faith He imparts. Some scholars go a step further in their definition of the Greek word for arrogance…

Often associated with those who despise God.

As if recognizing my arrogance isn’t enough, I’m also forced to face the disgust of the word’s full meaning in the unpacking of my spiritual backpack. When I carry arrogance, the world cannot distinguish between me and those who despise God. Thank goodness there is a cure.

First, open my backpack and give God my arrogance. Then, follow God’s leading as it’s laid out in both Old and New Testaments.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:7, NIV

So, humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor. James 4:7-10, NLT

Practice the pause. Evaluate the need. Set limits. Use my words sparingly and wisely. Speak life. And don’t make it all about me. That way, when I reach my limit I can know I was the best steward of words I could be.

Father, my laughter is changed to mourning today as You show me the ugliness of arrogance and pride. I am grieved by it, because I know it has grieved You. I submit myself to You. That’s the only way I can resist the devil and his attempts to get me to elevate myself above others in my mind. I don’t want to shine my own light. I want You to shine Your perfect light through me, so others will be drawn to You. I don’t want anyone drawn to me. I don’t want to be associated with those who hate You. I want the fullness of Your grace. Give me the strength – Your strength and power – to shun evil. Help me see how foolish my so-called wisdom is, and to rely fully on Your wisdom and guidance – to acknowledge You in all my ways so You will direct my paths. Amen.

So, I consider that question again.

What can I do today to help take control of my words and use them for good?

I can get rid of my arrogance. In doing that, I get rid of excessive talking. I evaluate the need and think of others before I speak about myself. I get rid of excessive shining. I direct the spotlight away from myself and toward the only One who deserves it. I pay attention to my talking like I do to the use of my printer, and I stop exceeding the limit. Because I know the excess is going to cost me; associating me with those who despise God.

P.S. I find it ironic that this is one of my wordiest posts to date. Thank you, God, for using broken vessels like me.

Note: This post is Part Three of My Big Fat Greek Word Search – a series about the removal of spiritual toxins, or an unpacking of my spiritual backpack.  To see previous posts, follow these links:

Part One – Traveling (not so) Light: Confessions of an Excessive Packer

Part Two – My Big Fat Greek Word Search: Unpacking One Word at a Time

Part Three – An Unrepentant Heart

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