I don’t have much of a filter anymore.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.
It seems that as we get older, we become less and less interested in censoring our opinions, thoughts and feelings.
It seems that many of us (especially women) over the age of 40 started out life with an excellent filter. We brutally censored ourselves to make our persona more acceptable to others.
If you grew up in the church, your filter probably worked overtime. There are certain things one does not discuss in church. There are certain words, mannerisms, and conversation topics that are just off-limits.
But around middle age, it seems our filters wear out. Permanently.
Maybe as life goes along, we discover that our filters cause more harm than good. Because of our filters, our true self becomes unknowable, facilitating false relationships and putting up a barrier against real ones.
Maybe we feel that it’s too much work to keep that filter in place day after day, and it doesn’t bring us the reward of admiration and love that we had hoped it would.
Above all, I think that middle age brings a stark realization of how brief our time on earth is. We understand with painful clarity that our filters have prevented us from loving our real selves, just as we are, during the short time we have before that self is permanently absorbed by Eternity.
Unfortunately, the disappearance of our filter, while it brings the same delicious relief as removing your bra or pants at the end of a workday, also brings with it some problems.
Problems like false rumors. Malicious gossip. Hatefulness. Just plain old-fashioned meanness.
We’ve all known at least one elderly person that no one wants to be around because they are grumpy, or vindictive, or just plain mean. While part of us envies their freedom in saying whatever they want whenever they want, in our hearts we know that God did not create us to live that way. He wants us to live in freedom, but also in love.
So what’s the answer? Do we need to go through the laborious and painful task of reconstructing a filter in order to be a good Christian?
I don’t believe so.
In Matthew 12, Jesus says, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
“Out of the abundance of the heart.” In other words, those opinions, thoughts and feelings that spill out of you once your filter is gone, they emerge because your heart is too full to hold them inside anymore. The problem is not the absence of a filter. The problem is what is going on inside our hearts.
If we are full of love, then love is what spills out of us when our filters wear out.
If we are full of anger and hatred, then again, anger and hatred are the things that spill out.
I don’t believe that the Lord intended us to have filters at all. He intended us to pay attention to what was happening in our hearts so that we would not need them.
When we feel angry, when we feel judgmental statements or attitudes forming inside us, we are not supposed to just stuff them down, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist. Because eventually, out of the abundance of the heart, these feelings will spill out of us before we can stop them.
Instead of ignoring these feelings, God calls us to resolve them. Maybe that means talking to someone about what they did to hurt or anger you. Maybe that means praying for others at the moment you feel angry with them. Maybe it means writing our frustrations down in a journal and debriefing them with a trusted friend. Or it could simply mean recognizing that these bad feelings exist and trying to understand why.
How freeing, how glorious, to not have to use a filter anymore or to have to worry about the consequences.
If the abundance of all our hearts brought up only good treasure, imagine how different the world would be.