Wisdom: Silence or apt speech
Proverbs 17:28 says “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Proverbs 25:11-12 “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.”
Cop out: Ignore or force
We can pretend there is no issue or we can also prove our point forcibly. Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking.”
James tells us that our tongues can reveal a lot about our heart. James 3:3-12 says: “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of righteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
James like his brother Jesus teaches that the mouth reveals our hearts. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. He said that the evil things we speak come from within us. So here are a few tips for our tongues for followers of Christ to help us act maturely when dealing with people we clash with.
- The ability to admit we are not always right
A few days ago I asked our night guard to wash our car – inside and outside. In the morning I found that he had only washed the outside. I was miffed because I had paid him money worth washing the inside and the outside. I was angry at him for I felt cheated. I complained to my wife how the man was such a crook and how he had ruined all financial goodwill from me. When I returned from work in the evening, I confronted him. “You didn’t wash the inside and I paid you.” I said to him sternly. The animosity in my tone was evident despite trying to speak calmly. He then meekly replied, “I intended to wash the inside but you had locked the doors of the car. You were sound asleep and I didn’t want to wake you up and bother you and your wife.” My face grew red with embarrassment. I admitted fault immediately and accepted that I was wrong for I did lock the car the night before. Before I heard him out, I was cocksure that I was right. However, I learnt to always give a benefit of doubt to those who disagree with me or offend me. We can be sincere but sincerely wrong. I was humbled. Beloved, do you have the maturity to admit that you could be wrong even before you discover it? Are you humble enough to even learn from those who harm you?
- The ability to indulge them
One sign of maturity when engaging people you do not agree with is having the ability and capacity to indulge them. By indulge I don’t just mean waiting for them to talk so that you can respond. One failure in good communication is that we wait for the other person to speak just so that we can speak; we don’t wait while listening. Steve Covey says “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” There is a world of a difference between hearing and listening. When we do not indulge the other person, we reveal something about us- we are not teachable. Indulging someone does not mean you have to agree with them. However, I have found that the people who are willing to listen to what I have to say are the people for whom I spared time to listen to. Take a moment and listen to the other person. What are they saying? Read their motives not just their sentences. One good habit while indulging people is asking them what they mean before concluding what they mean. For example- “Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you stating that there are no good men in the whole world?” While indulging, tone of voice is everything. Ask the Spirit of God to guide your tongue as you indulge those who oppose you.
- The ability to NOT have the last word
There is a temptation to always have the last word in a debate. That is because we think that whoever has the last word wins. If you find yourself insisting to have the last word, realize that you are fighting; you are not discussing. It takes denying yourself to tame the tongue not to prove a point and lose a relationship. People are more important than anything. Believers ought to realize that the world will know us by our love for each other, as Christ said in John 13. You will know them by their… a) Status Updates? b) Christian T-shirts? c) Denomination? d) Pastor? No to all. The true ones will be known by their fruit. The fruit of our lives will always prove that we are God’s children. I have often been rebuked by this verse when pushing for the last word in an argument: 2 Timothy 2:16“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
- The ability to not use insults
Many believers may think that insults will require censored words using signs such as *&%!#. Not necessarily. Insults from everyday conversations among believers are manifest through sarcasm, satire and flippant humour. In themselves the words need no censoring but they cut deep and they hurt. A common tendency among believers is to quote a Bible verse after hurling caustic remarks. It’s like hurling a mud pie at someone only to find it was concealing a grenade on the inside. Beloved, one way to trace the fruit of the Spirit is to look at our speech. A caustic remark does not cement a point in an argument-it invalidates it. In fact the scriptures say in Proverbs 16:24 that “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” And if insulted, always use this verse as a guide: Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger”.
- The ability to love and respect them
I have often noticed that the scriptures often give commands without caveats. For example husbands are to love their wives. This command is not contingent on the wife’s lovability. Women are commanded to respect their husbands. This too is not dependent on the man being worthy of respect. Spouses are both commanded to submit to each other in the Lord. The submission is not contingent on the level of romance in the relationship. What is the Lord speaking to you concerning your speech when you disagree? The word says in Proverbs 10:32 “The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” It is easy to love my wife because she loves me back. However, loving an adversary is a whole new ball game. Christ demands it, though. Well, how do we practically love those we may not like? 1st Corinthians 10:13 is a useful guide. Am I impatient, unkind or irritable with this person? Do I think myself to be better than this person? Do I seek to embarrass them? Do I have a record of all the times they have offended me? Do I rejoice when they hurt? Do I refuse to believe anything they say can be good? Your ability to love the unlovely is a sign of maturity.
- The ability to recognize your own inconsistencies
What are your inadequacies? Can you list at least two of your frailties in less than 10 seconds. Many a times we can’t. Because it is easier to see the speck in a brother’s eye as opposed to the log in our own eye. I like to joke that even if we recognize that we have a log in our eye, after we remove it, chances are it has left lots of dust specks. More work to do with our tongues.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)