Anyone who's spent much time in churches knows about what happens at the intersection of the sharp-tongued and the thin-skinned.
Early on in my ministry I was told a (probably apocryphal) story about John Wesley being approached by an abrasive woman following a service. She loudly proclaimed that she had a problem with him. "What is the problem, friend?" he asked with strained civility. Wesley was famous for insisting on modesty and simplicity in apparel and she felt that she was in a position to score points on him by pointing out his hypocrisy. "My problem," she declared, "regards the length of your tie, sir."
Wesley immediately asked for a pair of shears. It was produced and he, without hesitation, cut his tie very short. He then handed the shears to the woman saying "And I, madam, have a problem with you. It regards the length of your tongue."
If only all church conflicts were so elegantly resolved!
But very often the most damage is done by the most off-handed remarks, and the damage is of the sort that, being hidden, can not be easily healed.
As a pastor it is easiest for me to identify and blame the sharp-tongued, to hold responsible those whose carelessness and inconsideration leaves a wake of wounded in their path.
But let's not let the thin-skinned completely off the hook. God is "slow to anger and abounding in love." God's reluctance to get angry where anger is justified is in keeping with his eagerness to extend love where it isn't.
But the thin-skinned demonstrate the inverse of that relationship: those who are the quickest to take offense are the slowest to let it go.
Both the sharp-tongued and the thin-skinned demonstrate a distressing lack of grace, but where grace prevails they both repent.
10 Rules for the Sharp-tongued and Thin-skinned Believers:
1. Speak only what is true, necessary, and kind.
2. Commit yourself to being more skilled as a communicator and a listener.
3. Make no excuses for the sharpness of your tongue or the thinness of your skin.
4. When wounded, make healing your priority, and not the vindication of your feelings.
5. Make and accept apologies like someone who's been forgiven much.
6. Put the mission of the church above your preference for speaking freely or your right to take offense.
7. Do not expect grace to do a work in your hearer's ears that you are not permitting it to do in your mouth.
8. Do not expect grace to do a work in your tormentor's mouth that you are not willing for it to do in your ears.
9. Submit your speaking and your hearing to the wisdom of godly and objective people.
10. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog