In case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump lost a lot of votes recently when a 2005 video surfaced of his vulgar comments about women. Trump’s campaign wasn’t going so well anyway, but he seemed to have a chance. Barring a miracle, his hot-mic moment has now made victory extremely unlikely.
I once had my own hot-mic moment, so I’m pretty sensitive to this sort of thing. I don’t make lewd comments about women, so my personal hot-mic episode had nothing to do with anything like that. It happened more than 20 years ago when I was a pastor going through a nasty church split.
If you’ve never gone through a church split, you are very fortunate. All I can say is that Christians seldom act like Christians when a massive split is underway.
One of the disgruntled members of our church had once been a very good friend of mine. I’ll call him Ralph to protect is identity, because I don’t think he would want me writing a blog about him.
One day Ralph came, unannounced, to my office at the church and said he wanted to talk.
“Jim, I know the source of the problem that’s been causing the church’s disunity,” he told me quite earnestly. “You’ve been operating under a Jezebel spirit, and the disunity has been coming from you.”
If I had been having a better day and was full of the Holy Spirit, I may have reacted with more grace and humility. Or perhaps I may have even chuckled a little that he would make such an unfounded accusation.
But I was weary that day…frustrated…and irritated that this once-upon-a-time friend would now be one of my greatest adversaries.
“Ralph, you may be right about that Jezebel thing,” I shot back at him. “But I’m not the one it’s coming from.”
The conversation quickly degenerated as I listed three or four people who seemed to me to be operating in a divisive spirit. Defending myself as a man of peace and integrity, I slammed those I saw as troublemakers.
As you can imagine, Ralph left even more agitated than he came in. He was convinced I had stubbornly rejected the heaven-sent message he had brought me in the name of the Lord.
Within 24 hours, I learned that Ralph had secretly recorded our unseemly conversation with a hidden recorder. He played back the recording for his disgruntled friends as clear evidence that I was slandering members of the church.
Although more than 20 years have passed since my hot-mic moment, the memories still hurt. I’ve long since forgiven Ralph, and hopefully he has forgiven me as well. But I was disappointed at him, and even more disappointed in myself.
What a painful lesson. And what a reminder that we probably should treat every conversation as if it was being recorded for public consumption.
In fact, everything we speak is being recorded, as Jesus warned: “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36 ESV).
Have you ever had a hot-mic moment? Have you said something that did great damage to other people or to your own reputation?
Ironically, Hillary Clinton has had her own problems with unwise words. While she seemed to take great delight in Trump’s problems with the hot mic, WikiLeaks is now releasing hacked transcripts of her Wall Street speeches and confidential email communications of her staff. Some of her top staffers have written derogatory things about Catholics, evangelicals, Hispanics, Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and just about everyone else you can imagine.
The leaked emails from Hillary’s campaign make it clearer than ever that she is a very dishonest person, taking completely different positions in private than in public. And the emails demonstrate that the Clinton Foundation undoubtedly was involved in pay-for-play access to Hillary’s connections while at the State Department.
It’s a bit troubling that privacy is apparently now a thing of the past for any of us. Yet this wouldn’t be such a problem if we were heeding Jesus’ warning: “There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).
So very true. And at times so very painful.
The apostle Paul said it this way: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). Let’s never forget that our words are incredibly powerful, able to impart either life or death to others (Proverbs 18:21).
If anything good can come out of this election, perhaps it will be a reminder to each of us to be careful of what we say or write. You never know when someone may be watching, listening, or even recording.
And even if no one on earth hears our words, we can be sure the tape recorder in heaven is running 24/7.