“I told you so!”
Oh, how tempting it is to let those four little words slip out of my mouth. It was easy as a child (with my bossy-pants self) to let a fellow classmate know that I knew better and had the good sense to try to keep them on the straight and narrow. But oh no, they wouldn’t listen, and now they would have to pay for it. Tattle-tale I may have been, but I was right.
These days, I find myself saying it to my children in various translations. “Well, that’s why I tell you to always sit on your bottom when you’re at the dinner table – if you sit correctly you’re less likely to bonk yourself on the noggin when you slide off from sitting halfway on the chair.” Or with my older child who is so bright but still learning what the term “studying” truly means. In that case, it may sound more like, “Well, if you had studied like I suggested, those grades would be better!”
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m tempted to do this with my husband. And beyond tempted – I just fall into the trap and do the “I told you so” routine that then becomes like nagging and annoying drops of rain beating down on his head.
Then today, sitting at work, I had a conversation where I was tempted to throw in an “I told you so” for good measure about a specific situation. And God stopped me right in my tracks as the I-know-better-then-you thought came into my head. I physically and mentally came to a screeching halt, knowing clearly that God was speaking to my heart: “No, child. You don’t know better. I do.”
Message received, Lord.
I don’t know better. Look at me – I can be a complete and utter wreck. Impatient with my children. Upset at the world. Cranky about laundry and dishes and bills that pile up. Taking things that are teeny-tiny in the realm of problems and blowing them up into mountains that seem to be larger than life. I know nothing.
But good thing I have a God who knows everything, just like the psalmist says in Psalm 139:
Lord, you have examined me
and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
Lord, even before I say a word,
you already know it.
You are all around me—in front and in back—
and have put your hand on me.
Your knowledge is amazing to me;
it is more than I can understand.
My God who knows all these things about me – things I’m blind to – knows everything about every person in this world. Oh how I need to be humbled about my own failings and more accepting of others and their own struggles! I don’t have to look very far in Scripture to find a shining example in Jesus. While he never sacrificed his right-ness, he gave love, compassion and mercy to those desperately in need of his grace.
So going forward, instead of saying “I told you so”, I’m going to try the “God tells me to” approach. When I get the urge to say those four dangerous words, I’m going to remember that:
- God tells me to be patient. People won’t always make the choices I do or move as fast as I want. Each opportunity to say “I told you so” is probably an opportunity to practice building my patience muscles.
- God tells me to be quiet. Know what? Sometimes I just need to stop talking and start listening. In the listening, there is much more to learn that in hearing yourself talk. When I’m telling someone what they should do, I miss their pain, struggles and worries.
- God tells me to share His love. His love might be demonstrated through forgiveness, a hug, a kind word, a gentler action. That’s what overflows from patience, listening and focusing on others.
I know I won’t be perfect in my efforts, but with a God-ordained wake-up call to my weakness in this area, I am going to seek God’s support in being quiet, listening, demonstrating patience – and most importantly – reaching out to share compassion and love with others. Won’t you join me in that effort?
In Christ’s love,
– Jen Clark