In case you haven’t figured it out, March Madness is upon us.  To sports fans, it is one of the most exciting times of the year.  To non-sports fans, it is the best time of the year to act like you care about sports.  For me, it is the perfect combination of organization and chaos, and one of the rare times in life when the product actually justifies the anticipation.  The one thing March Madness becomes that it should not, however, is personal.

I fill out one bracket every year.  I have no ethical problem with filling out several in hopes that you eventually get it right.  I just can’t handle the burden of trying to remember which teams I picked to win in which bracket pool.  This year, I had very few upsets because I always seem to miss big when I take a chance.  However, I did have some early round surprises that I thought would not hurt my overall bracket too badly if I was wrong. 

Two of my predicted upsets, though, had some teams going out that are very dear to the hearts of some of my friends.  Upon seeing this, some of them poked fun at me and issued idle threats (at least I hope they were idle).  But a couple of friends seemed genuinely upset.  They seemed to feel insulted by my random upset selections.  That was never my intent, and I’m sure it will never come up again since my picks are always wrong.  But I cannot help but wonder why people take things so personally.

I see similar situations far too often, especially in Christian circles.  If two people disagree about a topic, even if the actual issue is rather small, it can easily turn into a personal attack when somebody voices their disagreement.  It rarely has to do with the words that are said, but more with the words that are heard.  Someone could say “I really don’t think we need hot dogs AND hamburgers, could we just do one or the other?”  And then another person will hear “Your ideas are stupid and nobody likes your cooking anyway.”  Or "I think it is time we approach this ministry from a different angle" turns into "I cannot believe you ever expected this to work.  Our failure is your fault."

Why do we do that?  If we are truly loving each other the way we are called to, shouldn’t we always be giving each other, especially other believers, the benefit of the doubt?  Should we not always assume people are speaking from a place of love? 

In the book of James, we are told to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19 NIV)  We often use this verse to tell people to be slow to speak, or at least my wife does.  But if we read it in its entirety, it speaks directly to this issue.  Be quick to listen….and listen well to make sure you are hearing what you think you are hearing.  Be slow to become angry…if you think somebody is attacking your character or insulting you personally, approach them individually and get to the heart of the issue before you waste time and energy being angry.  If you do these things well, you will naturally be slow to speak.

Have you ever been guilty of hearing something that wasn’t really said?  Have you ever said something that was later twisted to mean something completely different?

I know you are dying to know what my March Madness bracket looks like.  Check it out below.

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