I talk too much.
What can I say? I love to share my ideas and be understood, just as I love to have discussions that give me a better understanding of others. Some might say it’s a healthy exercise in the philosophical quest for truth.
...some might say I’m a loud-mouthed jerk.
I was faced with this harsh reality last week when a very close friend of mine, practically family, blocked me on social media. He had been sharing articles and thoughts on a variety of things related to the recent civil unrest and racial tension in our country. And I had been sharing my own thoughts and asking questions in the comments of...well, too many of them.
When I realized he had blocked me, I quickly experienced a range of emotions from anger to betrayal. “What a coward!” I thought. “He’s unwilling to support his ideas and try to help me understand his position, and instead just cuts me out?”
I started furiously typing a number of different text messages to him before God tapped on my heart and asked me a simple question:
“Is your rhetoric more important than this relationship?”
You see, it’s easier than ever to share our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with the world. And harder than ever to share authentic love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]. Because the former only requires a platform or a megaphone, and social media is maybe the tallest platform and loudest megaphone ever conceived. But the latter requires something much less immediate; something that costs us more than just a few disposable words.
I decided to text my friend just three words that in the moment were hard for me to say. I texted him “I love you, bro.” Ok, so it’s four words. But you know what? He texted four words back. He said “I love you, too.”
And I realized, the years of life and real friendship we’ve shared together were not suddenly over. He was just tired of hearing me talk. And I can’t say I blame him.
There’s an idea being presented in our culture today that “silence is violence”. I understand this seeks to mirror a great Edmund Burke quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And I agree that we must be willing to speak up for things we believe in, and speak out against evil.
But I’m also reminded of a great Winston Churchill quote: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” And I can’t help but feel many of us are doing too much speaking and not enough listening. I know I’m guilty of it.
If we want to talk about what really brings about hurt and does damage, it is more often the use of words than the absence of them. You’ll find dozens of verses in the Bible that confirm what a powerful and destructive thing our tongue can be. Here are just a few if you want to look them up: Proverbs 10:19; Matthew 15:11; Proverbs 17:27-28; James 1:19; Proverbs 12:18
So my encouragement for myself and whoever may be reading this is simply to remember this: I can have my opinions and ideas. But it’s not my job to convince people, it’s my job to love them. And when my words get in the way of that, it’s my job to shut up.
So with that I’m going to take my own advice and leave you with this excerpt from James chapter three, verses 3 - 18:
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Bryan Vickers is the Worship Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford.
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