It’s Thursday and for me that means I will try and compose a blog post. I have been doing this for over two years now and sometimes, I find myself having a bit of struggle to say anything. So far, I have always mustered the words to fill the page and hopefully do more than that as you read. My hope in writing in this way is to take advantage of this forum to encourage my fellow Christ-followers and perhaps entice someone outside of the Kingdom to take a quick glimpse in.
One of the great things about a blog post is the ability I have to edit the words before they go out into the vast unknown of the world wide web. My system for editing involves my wife Camille reading through it before publishing it and asking her a couple of questions. First, did you find any errors in spelling, verb tense, etc. and second, did it make sense to you? After she gives me the thumbs up, I read through it again very slowly in an attempt to just make sure it doesn’t contain any errors. Despite this system, occasionally an error will slip both of our attentions. I don’t like making errors. It certainly isn’t my intention to make errors. But still, sometimes an error occurs.
A much more challenging and dangerous means of communication is conversation. Think about it, we are engaged in speaking in the moment without the benefit of backspaces or Camille’s to point out our mistakes. How many times do not only the content of our words create hurt feelings, but the situation is compounded by a careless presentation that often comes across as demeaning or judgmental? As I have gotten older, I have come to believe that many people have no intention of inflicting pain or insult when they speak. I have also come to see that despite their best intentions not to inflict pain, their words leave the sting that produces confusion, not clarification; division, not commonality; hurt, not kindness.
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Notice the emphasis on listening. Not only do I believe this admonition speaks about hearing others, but as it is used so many times in Scripture, listening varies from hearing as it involves a response. Of course, in this passage, listening will produce a response: interpretation of what we have heard (possible anger) and a verbal response (speech). The emphasis on slowness will hopefully serve as a buffer from us reacting in ways that perhaps are not productive or helpful and may actually be the source of our regret as we take a step back and reflect on them. But often it doesn’t and we rush ahead intent on being heard and winning an argument rather than the communication reaching it’s desired conclusion: community.
Perhaps if we need to have what could be a difficult conversation with another person we should carefully measure and weigh our words before they come stumbling out of our mouths. What if we prayerfully considered our words, playing them over and over in our minds, editing them as we discover they don’t really communicate what we desire. And, perhaps we could follow another biblical norm and have a quiet word with the person in question in private instead of engaging them in public. This powerful tool often will keep the communication from running afoul so that again, it can achieve it’s desired end: community.
Living in community and maintaining community is not an easy exercise. Living in community means we talk to each other in ways that not only express certain facts but that expresses those facts with a large measure of grace and concern for how others will hear what we need to say. Isn’t easy but it is so worth it as we seek to honor and represent Christ in our world.