Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Few Words

Proverbs 17:27 A truly wise person uses few words;
a person with understanding is even-tempered.
28 Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

It was one of those back and forth conversations with someone who was just not hearing what I was saying. He continued to argue against a caricature of what he thought I believed since I was not in his ideological camp. He was wrong about me. He was wrong about my motives. He was wrong about what I had both said and meant. He was just wrong. But he made up for it by being condescending.  Ever been there?

So after one more of his emotionally-charged but seriously flawed protestations that really teed me up to hit a rhetorical home run, instead, I just went silent. I did not respond. Not a word. I remembered Dallas Willard's statement to one of his students about practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word. And I remembered this Proverb. Of course, if there is anything to be gained by this in heaven in terms of humility points, I'm sure I just lost it by publicly proclaiming what I did here.

Any time an argument occurs, others are watching. When one arguer lets emotions get the better of him or her, the other has a choice to make. Do you go down that road, or leave the person standing there alone?

I remember a few painful examples of being the one left standing on the road after abandoning civil discourse in favor of condescending or sarcastic, or sometimes even incoherent come-backs. The awareness of how others must have seen me was more painful than the fact I had lost the argument.

This kind of thing can happen between strangers, acquaintances, friends, co-workers and family. And sometimes, the healthiest, wisest and most productive thing you can do is shut up. There is usually more relational work to do later, but sometimes, silence is often a really good place to start.

May you find the strength to listen more than speak and be known as wise. When you do speak, may you speak with grace and understanding in a way that adds value to others. And may your words be few, because the words you use say and accomplish so much.

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