Excuse me, is that broccoli between your teeth?

Imagine catching your reflections in a mirror hours after lunch only to see a glaring piece of broccoli stuck between your front teeth? If you’re like me, in a split second your mind would race to recall every conversation you had since lunch. Why didn’t someone say something? Why wouldn’t someone let us know that something wasn’t right? We’d want to know.

Lately when I’ve been online, I’ve felt a bit like I need to lean in and tell a few people that they’ve got broccoli between their teeth. No, not actual broccoli, but something seems to be glaringly off. Something is out of place. Stick with me for a minute and I think you’ll see where I’m going.

The birth of a broccoli analogy

Recently I popped on to Facebook to see a post from a friend. She stuck her toe into the public political fray by sharing an article that she related to. The near immediate responses she received sent fireworks across my news feed. What amazed me most was how visceral some of her “friends” responded. One even called her an idiot or now that I think of it, it may have been something even stronger. The comments and replies weren’t anything I would think any true friend would say to anyone they remotely care about.

Given the strong opinions and emotions that are swirling around today, I couldn’t help but think, it’s time to check our smile because it will tell us a lot about ourselves. While we’re unlikely to find broccoli, I think you will find you’ve got something new to chew on.

We are what we eat.

Here’s a crazy thought… you can only get broccoli stuck in your teeth if you eat broccoli. No brocolli in our diet means no brocolli between our teeth.

What if we checked what’s “getting stuck in our teeth” based on what’s spilling out of our mouths? If we did, it will say a lot about what we’re consuming. Do we have kindness, goodness, peace, and self control still on our lips? Or is what’s sticking to us unkind, attacking, and judgmental?

If it’s the later, it might be time to check what we’re consuming. Galatians 5 lists the fruits of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. There is no asterisk or “exception” clause that says the fruits change if we don’t agree with someone or if we’re commenting online from a distance.

If we’re living as people of faith, we should work to demonstrate Christ-like character to the world around us, even when we’re online, even when we have differing opinions. Maybe it’s time to check our teeth. If we feel compelled to respond to something we don’t agree with,  how much more effective might we be if we choose to approach the topic with compassion, and make a conscious choice to not  spew hatred.

The root of the problem is deeper.

The old saying says what goes up must come down. We can echo that and say what goes in is what comes out. Scripture tells us that what comes out of our mouths comes from our hearts. Can people recognize the fruit of the spirit when they interact with us or read our posts? With our country heading into an election year, It’s good from time to time take a step back and not only check what we’re consuming but to also take a look at what we’re chewing on.

The thoughts, worries, ideas, and hopes that we chew on settle into our hearts and take root. Both our perspective and our responses are impacted by what we consume. We’re not called to agree with everyone on everything, but how we respond reflects our “diet”.

“But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.” Matthew 15:18 NLT

“..But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil…” Matthew 15:18 Message

What are your reactions, posts, and comments online saying about the condition of your heart?

Words have power.

Our words can encourage or nurture. Or they can be used as weapons. If we call ourselves people of faith, bitterness and complete lack of respect for others should stand out in our reflection like broccoli in our teeth. Foul words are unbecoming in our reflection.

Scripture says  “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 NIV

Which influence are we having with our words? Do our words, especially in disagreement and conflict still reflect words of life? Or, are we condemning, spewing, and sharing hate? Attacking someone online for their opinion will do little to show them our perspective on an issue. And, I hazard to guess that it won’t influence their opinion either. It’s time to “check our teeth.” We can improve our smile and have a more positive impact on the world around us if we remember that words have power and as people of faith, we’re called to a higher standard.

It doesn’t matter if you have calm demeanor if you’re talking with someone who agrees with you. The time when it matters most to be patient and understanding is when you are having difficult conversations. It’s in those moments that your character is most visible.

It’s your turn

Have you noticed tension online? Has my broccoli analogy challenged your thoughts in how people have been responding? I’d love to hear if this post resonated with you too. And, if you’ve found the perspective helpful, why not share it. Maybe it will inspire others to check their reflection too.

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