Back in the day I used to do a lot of speaking for various groups. Some of it was motivational and inspirational. Some of it was Bible teaching for teenagers and college students. Occasionally I was asked to lead a seminar, speak at a conference or even do a school assembly. One church even asked me to deliver a Sunday sermon. I don’t remember what the sermon was on. I do remember the response from the congregation – graciously positive. What a relief. I really hate speaking in the midst of flying tomatoes! Afterward, I went home and went on with my day.
The following day was, as you might expect, a Monday. When I took a moment to check the weekend mail, I discovered that my local utility company had overcharged me AGAIN for the second month in a row. The hassle to get my money back after the first overcharge was nothing short of infuriating. Now they are doing it again? I immediately called the 800 number and navigated through a seemingly endless number of prompts.
- Press 1, for English.
- Press 1 if you are a current customer.
- Press 2 if you know your account number.
- Press 5 if you know any numbers.
- Press 7 if you know the square root of Pi.
- Press 4 if you want a pie.
- Press 8 if you are tired of pressing buttons.
- Press 9 if we are wearing you down.
- Press 6 if you are about to commit a felony.
- Press 8 if you are voting for Dancing with the Stars.
- Press 3 if you still remember why you are calling.
UGH! After what seemed to be 90 minutes, I finally got past that non-sense and was able to speak to an actual human being. In that moment, a flood of emotions were upon me. I was glad to be out of the purgatory of prompts. I was furious I was having this conversation again. I realized that this customer service woman is not the cause of my problem. I also realized that she worked for the evil organization and needed to hear my frustration. I wanted to yell and curse and scream, which is unlike me.
But my conscience and character were telling me to be patient and gracious and kind in my speech. In that split second, I had to decide what voice was going to win. I honestly did not know. There were two beings on each shoulder, the devil and the angel, and they were battling over my mind and tongue. Against my true desires, the angel spoke softly to the woman and explained my repeated frustration with her company and their costly mistake.
Customer service people are trained to handle idiots like me. This lady was great. She was helpful. She was understanding and patient. She spoke in a very disarming and soothing manner. Within about ten minutes, my problem was solved and the money issue was fixed. I could feel the blood leaving my head and watching the hulk-like figure lose it’s shade of green. What she said to me next sent chills down my spine…
- Customer service lady: “Mr. Arters, is there anything else I can do for you?”
- Me: “No, Ma’am. You have been very helpful. Thank you so much.”
- Customer service lady: “You are very welcome. Before you go, I need to tell you something.”
- Me: “What’s that?”
- Customer service lady: “I just wanted you to know that the sermon you gave yesterday at church was very powerful and it really impacted me. I was glad that I had visited your church.”
- Me: (long silence) “You were there?”
- Customer service lady: “Yes, when I saw your name on the account I realized it was the same name on my church bulletin. At any rate, I just wanted to say thank you.”
- Me: (long silence) “Um, you are welcome. Thank you!”
I hung up and honestly wanted to cry. How close did I come to discrediting my sermon? I was about three seconds away from steamrolling a visitor at my church, without even knowing it. In this case, my lips and my life matched. Fortunately for me, what she saw in the pulpit and what she heard on the phone were the same. The truth is, my heart was far from speaking kindly that day. There was rage in my heart and only because I was raised right and living in the South, did I realize that such behavior never solves problems.
There have been plenty of times that my life has not matched my lips. I’m working on that. I have to constantly remind myself that I am always being watched – even when I am alone. The customer service reps on the phone and the people behind the ticket counter at the airport, they both have ears. The grocery bagger and the guy who works at the gas station, they both have eyes. They watch and hear what we say, what we do, how we treat them. And they know more about you then you think.
It has been said that “character is who you are when no one is watching.” So, who are you?
It’s easy to look good on a platform or behind a pulpit or in a pew. Anyone can pad a resume, impress on an interview or dazzle on a first date. But how do you behave when you think no one is looking? How do you speak when you think no one is really listening? What does your web history reveal about your free time surfing?
Remember, we all live before an Audience of One.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3