Friday, May 21, 2010

Foolish Talk

Fools care nothing for thoughtful discourse; all they do is run off at the mouth. Proverbs 18:2 MSG

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘You’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’” —Dave Barry, humor columnist. 

It’s satisfying to get that look, isn’t it? Who doesn’t like having their humor or sage observations appreciated and admired, especially when your audience is smarter than dogs. I’ve offended people with what I thought was gentle teasing, and others by expressing my political views. There’s a non-scriptural proverb my mother taught: never discuss religion, bodily functions, or politics in polite company. Or any other place, for that matter, if they aren’t immediate family. 

So what is one to talk about? What’s left? If I discuss medieval history, people’s eyes glaze over. Current events lead back to politics, a banned dinner subject. I could talk about my pets or my garden, but that’s only good for a minute. 

Perhaps the answer is not to talk so much as to listen. And not only to our neighbors’ spoken words, but to notice their body language and key words that might reveal their motivations. Saying the right words at the right time—there are lots of Solomon’s proverbs about that. And James chapter 3. And Ephesians chapters 4 and 5. 

Religious talk has minefields, particularly when we confuse changeable standards and unchangeable principles, but I’ve noticed that when we speak of the love and endless grace of God, people’s eyes light up. You and I can never hear it enough times: God loves me, He cares for everything about me, He’s waiting for me to relax in His arms and let Him take care of me, He created me especially to be His treasure, He’s prepared eternal life and joy for me. 

“Really?” they seem to say, “You’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!” That’s not folly—that’s hope and encouragement and building up. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29 MSG: Say only what helps, each word a gift. 

Your words—and your listening silence—will be love in another person’s ear.

This article appears in the book We Shall Be Changed, edited by Christy K. Robinson, and was reprinted at this site:

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