Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Getting the Sound Bite Right
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a picture of silver.” -Proverbs 25:11
My lovely wife gets all the breaks. She’s warm and inviting, a friendly woman who extends herself easily. I’m reserved, somewhat shy, not good at small talk and, according to feedback I’ve gotten since I was 3 months old, not friendly looking. So everybody loves Renee, and wonders what she’s doing with stone-face Joe. She stands in a room and people think she’s a greeter. I get mistaken for the bouncer. It is what it is.
And although I speak regularly, she speaks intuitively, and my, what a difference! I prepare messages for conferences and seminars, which she does as well, and beautifully. But she can also spontaneously converse and, whether by instinct, word of knowledge or deep sensitivity, speak something piercingly sweet directly into a person’s soul, saying exactly the right words, exactly the right way, exactly when they’re needed. I’ve seen it time and again – she’s making light conversation with someone, they suddenly burst into tears as they hug her, and I say to myself, “Another victory for the Queen of the Fitly Spoken.” Amazing.
I covet that, because I know that people are always in the middle of something. When I greet someone, I know, or should know, that there’s a context. Either they’re having a good day or a bad one; they’re peaceful or stressed, frightened or confident. There are wheels within wheels going on in their heads and lives, and my interaction with them will, to some degree, make things better or worse. And most of the “better or worse” factor will be determined by my words.
Think about it. People’s actions may have been hurtful to you, maybe in the extreme. But if I were a gambler, I’d bet that most of the hurt you’ve sustained from interactions with others has come from their words. I’ll take it further by presuming you can remember words thrown at you thirty or forty years ago, still able to hurt you when dredged up for review. And if that’s true of negative words, it’s true of edifying ones as well. Amazing, the power of this body part which is, as James said, “a little member boasting great things.” (James 3:5)
Surely that’s what Solomon was referring to in this verse mentioned above, when he describes certain words as being “fitly spoken.” Check the Hebrew on his term “fitly” and you find an interesting combination of two words: one having to do with wheels; the other referring to time and place. As in, “wheels operating on a schedule, continuing in a process.”
Makes sense. Everyone’s in process – growing, hurting, loving, enjoying, hating – and the right word at the right time can help enormously. I can’t always know what the process is, even within those closest to me. But I’m learning that I can, with love and clarity, express what I assume, what I see, or what I hope.
I assume a person is built up by a friendly greeting, a light inquiry as to their well-being, an expression of warmth and appreciation. That’s a logical assumption. When I act on it (or rather, speak on it) it generally proves to be true.
I can see a person’s downcast look, or their confused, frightened, angry or elated expression as well. Like the jerks in the parable of the good Samaritan who crossed to the other side of the road, I’m often tempted to withhold comment when I see need, wanting to avoid involvement or afraid of stepping out only to be rebuffed. But maturity, and some sense of responsibility to other members of the body of Christ, reminds me of the times I’d have given virtually anything just to have someone’s ear for a minute or two. It’s not really so hard to say, “You look stressed. Having a bad day?” Our God is, after all, the God who sees, and if we are like Him, we see and respond as He does. In short, we care enough to comment on what we notice in another, showing interest and availability. And what a difference, sometimes even life changing, a little interested availability can make! Just ask Renee.
And I can express my hopes for a person, knowing littler or nothing about their situation. I hope God blesses them. I hope their relations are deep and meaningful, I hope their gifts are drawn out and used, I hope their lives are abundant. It doesn’t take much of a saint to hope that for others, and for others to hear that hope expressed in simple phrases like God bless your day, Hope your family’s well, Have a terrific weekend is a reminder to them that they matter to you, thereby they matter to somebody. And you don’t need me to tell you how often people crave being reminded of that alone.
Every interaction you and I have with people today will leave them a bit (or a lot) better or worse than they were before that interaction. That makes you and I, to some extent, either a blessing or a curse to the people we deal with. I know what my ‘druthers are; I’ve no doubt of yours, either. So God grant us wisdom, sensitivity, boldness and clarity today, to express His heart through our words, making us truly and rightfully ambassadors for Him.