I Told You So!
I told you so!
What emotions do those words stir up?
I found this intriguing to me as I thought about it earlier today. It occurred to me that I have once again come across a real and a counterfeit, something that can either add to one's life or make one feel diminished.
The most common thing that comes to most people's minds whenever this phrase comes up is when someone has predicted something negative would happen. We often use this as a punchline to reinforce the idea that we knew better ahead of time and the person we have warned didn't listen to our opinions. As something of a final jab to reinforce the fact that we were right and they were wrong we throw out this one-liner, “I told you so. I knew that was what was going to happen and you didn't listen to me.”
As I thought about this I wondered about the typical reaction inside that usually occurs whenever someone says this to us. I suppose I can't speak for everyone, but I know in my own experience that when someone says 'I told you so' to me that I tend to react sometimes. I don't like someone to gloat over the fact that they think they knew better and then want to make sure I am reminded of that. As I look at what usually takes place way down in my emotional makeup I realize that most of what I am feeling is probably shame.
A few years ago I listened to an excellent series of presentations about shame that really opened my understanding of this emotion. I had never really thought much about it before and didn't really think that I had ever experienced much of it until I heard this detailed explanation of what it is and how it affects us. After learning about many of the symptoms and causes of shame I suddenly realized that I have experienced enormous amounts of shame nearly all of my life but never knew what it was. Nearly every relationship that we have in some way or sometime involves the use of shame to manipulate or control people.
Shame is the weapon used to make a person feel more worthless, less valuable, unimportant. It is usually done in such a way as to make the person shaming another to feel more valuable in comparison, more important by contrast. Even though in reality it is not true, the perception is given that the one shaming another is a little more elevated as a result of their shaming words or actions.
When someone says, 'I told you so,' there may not be a lot of shame intended in their motives, but there is generally at least a little bit involved. Saying this conveys something about a superior ability to predict some consequence, either from past experience or from intuition. Most of us do not enjoy being told 'I told you so,' but many of us have a hard time resisting saying those words ourselves when we find an opportunity to do so.
But what came to me this morning was what I consider possibly the authentic use and purpose of these words that has been counterfeited by what I have just described above. And when we look at the real purpose of something when it is used in its more authentic way, the way heaven intends it to be used, it does not involve the negative effects that a counterfeit usually involves. I realized that there is another very positive way in which this phrase is used by God to actually motivate us and encourage us without the shame baggage associated with it that we are so used to feeling.
Jesus mentioned this when He spoke some of His prophecies to His disciples while He was here on earth with them. But when Jesus used a similar phrase to 'I told you so,' He had no intention of making His disciples ashamed or feeling devalued. Oh no! Quite the opposite. Jesus intended this to be one of our greatest sources of encouragement and hope, even countering the affects that shame has in our lives. He had a very different purpose for these words than how we typically use them or hear them.
Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. (John 14:29)
But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. (John 16:4)
Many people have mistakenly assumed that prophecies in the Bible were given so that people could figure out the future before it happens. In some cases that may be true. But prophecies are not necessarily intended to be tomorrow's newspaper delivered ahead of time before the events have happened yet. Some prophecies are intended by God to only be properly appreciated and understood after they have occurred so that when we look back on both the prophecies and the fulfillments we feel our hearts filled with wonder, amazement and deepening confidence in God's ability to take care of us because He knows all things both past and future.
Let me just share on a very small scale an illustration that conveys this truth that is actually taking place even as I write this.
A very dear friend of mine has been frustrated in their quest to know God at a deeper level for many years. They have often complained that God just doesn't seem to talk to them like He seems to do for others. They never hear His voice or feel His presence and He never seems to answer their insistent and troubling questions. We have sought to assure them, comfort and prod them a little to keep listening and keep seeking to know Him even though it seems like they are getting nowhere. We have prayed for them and simply been there for them waiting for them to be prepared and willing to realize how God may be speaking to them in ways that they may be ignoring or blocking.
Not long ago this person suddenly found themselves wide awake early in the morning. Not at all being an early morning person they were confused as to why they had awakened so early but soon felt that they sensed God speaking to their mind in an unusually distinct way. He relayed a number of very startling facts that would soon happen within a few months in their life. Not all of these things were necessarily what they would have chosen themselves and over the next few days they wondered if their mind had made these things up or whether it was really God that had spoken them. But each time they prayed about it they seemed to feel confirmations of the messages delivered. Now they were left to choose whether to believe and act upon them or to follow their own inclinations as some of the things involved major decisions about where to live and work.
This person decided to accept on faith that maybe it was God speaking to them and to act accordingly in faith. That involved needing to make some painful choices against their own desires and to choose a course that they would never have chosen otherwise and didn't necessarily even want to do. But they felt impressed to trust in God's personal revelation to them and continue to wait to see if all of the events would actually happen at the times when they were predicted to take place.
Not long ago we received a call from this friend wondering if indeed what had been foretold was really going to happen on time. All the evidence they could see seemed to indicate that nothing was happening even right up to the very date predicted, but still they chose to leave it all in God's hands even if it did not work out the way they thought they had heard it. I encouraged them to keep trusting God's heart even if all the evidence seemed to be missing. Faith involves trusting God when the evidence is lacking – that is the very nature of faith. I was glad that this person was choosing to trust in spite of the lack of clear confirmation and rather expected another phone call soon around the date the events were predicted to begin transpiring.
Sure enough, I received a phone call early one morning from this very excited friend eager to tell me how God had amazingly begun to show them clues of how things were indeed taking shape behind the scenes. They were having their faith rewarded which strengthened their confidence that the rest of the predictions would likewise take place just as they had been foretold. In effect, the words of Jesus to His disciples were again being replayed in the life of my friend – Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.
But not only was it strengthening my friend's faith but my own heart was being stirred with strong emotions as I shared in their joy and in deepening confidence in the leading of God in our lives. When I shared this story a few minutes later with my wife, she too was moved to tears as she thrilled with the knowledge that our friend was learning to trust more implicitly. As I reminded my friend again before we hung up that morning, 'the bottom line in all of this is learning to trust His heart, not just His words.'
So there is the difference between the counterfeit and the authentic. The counterfeit creates doubt and creates shame and diminishes hope that the heart needs to thrive. The true does just the opposite. It creates hope and affirms worth. It causes a person to realize that God has not forgotten them after all and that He holds the future firmly in His hands where it is safe, no matter what appearances may seem to indicate.
When others gloat over us by saying, 'I told you so,' it may make us feel diminished and shamed inside.
When God reminds us of His ability to know our future, He says ahead of time that He is going to say these same words. But when we look back and remember that God has told us so before it ever happened it raises our awareness of how much we are valued by God and that He has our future secure in His love and care for us. Far from making us feel ashamed, God is in the business of making us feel special, like the apple of His eye, the object of His special affections.