Thursday, June 19, 2008

Avoid a Feud

James 1:19… let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger

Unless you are in that final part of the game show “Family Feud” where you only have 30 seconds to answer a series of questions, taking your time to respond verbally is never a wrong reaction, in fact, it’s usually a very wise thing. I wish I was better at it. I pray that God would give me grace to practice this more.

The Proverbs are also laden with counsel and direction about being “slow to speak”:

- When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)
- The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Prov. 15:28)
- Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Prov. 17:27-28)
- Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov. 29:20)

The chief benefit of being slow to speak is allowing time to mull and weigh your response biblically. A quick, emotional "comeback" often exacerbates the situation or heightens an interchange that didn't need to be heightened. A slow response tends to be softer, and such an answer turns away wrath (but a harsh word stirs up anger, Proverbs 15:1).

I'll tell you what has made being "slow to speak" more difficult for the more impulsive among us- technology. Cell phones, Email, and Blackberries allow for immediate responses to the vast majority of situations. The potential for firing off a nasty email response is great. The damage is often pretty severe in such "electronic" situations, after all, it's in writing. Further, with email there is no way to interpret tone of voice, etc. A device meant to advance communication can in fact greatly promote miscommunication if used unwisely. I think an interchange between Abraham Lincoln gives some wise advice to be applied to our emailing practices-

Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded missive to the president. "What are you going to do with it?" Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, "Send it." Lincoln shook his head. "You don't want to send that letter," he said. "Put it in the stove. That's what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It's a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another."

So, in many cases, press delete instead of send. In any case, James gives us some very helpful counsel about being slow to speak. We're really not in the final round of Family Feud.


Frontier Forest said...

I too so greatly admire this powerful witnessing tool! Thinking before your mouth blasts forward has always been a struggle for this big mouth! But I have observed this unique virtue extending from many of those whom HE hath given the Spiritual Gift of Faith. (I Cor 12:7-11, The gift of faith, is Extreme Faith, and different from “a measure of faith” that all of us receive at the time of his or her regeneration. “For God has allotted to each, a measure of faith. Rom 12:3)
My mission companion, Pastor Pavel Horev has been given the Gift of Faith, and being around him, gleaning from his wise and thought-filled few words, during difficult situations, is indeed both desirable as well as a blessed witness to everyone.

AliGirl said...

Revealing my youth, TV shows like Dawson's Creek, Gilmore Girls, and other teenage dramas from my day made quick-witted banter and jokingly rude comments the must if a girl wanted friends and especially a boyfriend. It did not take me long in high school to figure out that the line between funny and mean was too easily crossed, but it's still such a slippery slope. The tongue is so difficult to tame!
However, like you said, technology, and I'd throw in media, links quick, sassy dialogue with intelligence. Dang it, society's got it backwards again! Who would've thought?

jeff said...

oh boy, is this something I struggle with!

When I was younger (and less worried about my Christian walk...) I was always able to make a quick remark, usually sarcastic, sometimes cutting a little too deep, but not ever really caring about the impact my words were having. As I grew older, there were a couple of times that I really regretted something I said, or a remark I made, to the point that I went back and apologized to the person. Thank God for teaching me lessons!

The times I really have to be careful are when I'm at school, and I feel like my program is being put down or it's importance is lessened (which happens a lot as a music teacher). I am a little (ok, a lot) too quick to speak in a defensive or arguementative tone when I should just shut my mouth and listen. I try so hard now to choose my words carefully and use a "gentle answer" instead of harsh words. I still fail at times, but, by the Grace of God, I have learned how to try to react in a way that puts my faith forward in a positive way.