Put the Extra Toothpaste Back in the Tube?
April 28, 2016
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Squeeze out too much toothpaste from the tube and you can’t put the extra back. Some things can’t be undone. In the hundreds of weddings I’ve done over the years as a pastor I often used this as an illustration for good communication when delivering the wedding meditation to the couple standing before me. I said something to them like this: “When you express hurt or anger toward each other don’t use words you’ll later regret. Sure, you can say afterward, ‘I’m sorry for what I said,’ and your mate can say, ‘I forgive you,’ but it’s hard to forget the harsh words. Just like you can’t put extra toothpaste you’ve squeezed out back into the tube, so you can’t take back hurtful words that have been spoken.”
It’s not just true with words but also actions. Actions cannot be undone. Only in videos can you hit the rewind and go back to when the bad had not yet happened and give it another try; you can’t do that in real life. It’s easy to act in a wrong way, but it can take a lot of right acting afterward to overcome the wrong. For instance, trust can be broken by one act of lying, deception, or infidelity, but it will take many, many trustworthy actions to rebuild that trust, if it can be done at all.
That’s why it’s important to apply a couple of old adages that we tell children all the time, “Think before you speak,” and “Think before you act.” If they’ve spoken or acted badly we ask, “What were you thinking?” The implication is that the person wasn’t thinking! How much damage done by wrong words and actions could be prevented by doing a bit more thinking before we speak or act!
We’re usually careful when we squeeze the toothpaste onto our toothbrush so we don’t squeeze out too much, for we know we can’t put the extra back. May the daily ritual of squeezing the toothpaste tube in the morning be a type of sacrament, the toothpaste representing our words and actions that will come from us that day, reminding us that we can’t easily take them back!
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) “Each one should test their own actions.” (Galatians 6:4)