Tag Archives: Conversation

Safely across to dry ground

buckley

The Mighty Wonder Buck enjoying his outing.

Buckley and I enjoy terrain hiking in a tiny semi-secluded patch of the planet belonging to the college where my husband works.  It’s private land, so I’m thinking the town’s leash laws are not in effect. It’s also one of the few places I can let him range, and he loves it!

So do I.  Not only for myself, but I get such a kick out of watching him enjoy the freedom, and I marvel at the sure-footedness of this rescue pound-puppy of ours.  Not that I can say that about myself, mind you.  No, this one carries a walking stick, wears special insoles in trail running shoes (in which I walk, not run), and even then I have to pick carefully through leaves and creek beds, using that opposable thumb to grab and hoist myself up the hills.

Buckley, the barefoot creature without the opposable thumb?  Right.  He leaves me in the dust. 

I have to be especially attentive when crossing a brook.  Picking my way safely can be challenging (it’s part of the fun), and watching for slippery moss on the rocks is imperative.  If I’m not careful, I’m all wet. 

Hold that thought for a sec.

Proverbs chapter ten is largely concerned with my words, which is a pretty good indicator of what’s in my heart.  Here is a running commentary contrasting the attitude (as shown by their words) of the wise person versus the fool.  Just a sampling—

The wise are glad to be instructed,
    but babbling fools fall flat on their faces…

People with integrity walk safely,…

This isn’t just an observation, (Solomon was quite good at that), but more importantly, a warning.  It’s easy to be drawn into a foolish argument; that is, an argument that is void of the primary foundation of wisdom—

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
    Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

Without this, the encounter can become slippery at best, treacherous at worst, causing confusion, rancor, and division (to name a few.)

Here’s another comparison—

The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain;

…but the babbling of a fool invites disaster.

Are my words giving life?  Or are my words making safe passage unattainable?

Or is it a discussion I should even enter into at this place?

When one of these conversations presents itself, the godly participant does well to stand on the shore and survey how to get across safely to the other side. 

Otherwise, you’re all wet.

Proverbs 10:8,9,11,14; 9:10 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Conversational Traps

Proverbs 26:4

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”

To some it seems like a contradiction in Scripture. Here Solomon is telling us to not answer a fool, but in the very next verse he seems to say the opposite. The Apostle Peter even tells us (1 Peter 3:15) to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” Why, then, should we “answer not?”

Flawed and Senseless

Have you ever tried debate a teenager (or self-assured college-age daughter)? Trying to convince them of truth is like a genuine exercise in futility. When they are convinced they know what is right, there is no arguing, even when they realize their argument is flawed.

Some people will argue over things that make no sense at all, thereby making it impossible to win, no matter what side one’s on. For example, there was lady who called into a radio talk show complaining about the placement of deer crossing signs (signs that warn motorists that deer cross in that area). Let me give you a paraphrased version of the conversation…

deer crossingLady:  I’ve been trying to talk to somebody about this, but no one listen to me.

Radio: Really? What is the problem?

Lady: Well, there have been a lot of people hitting deer on the highway, including me. I just feel they should move these signs to places where there are less cars and slower speeds…I mean, we shouldn’t encourage deer to cross the interstate…that’s too dangerous.

Radio: Are saying these signs are instructing the deer where to cross?

Lady: Yes, and all it would take is moving the crossings to a safer place, like a school zone, where people would have time to see the deer coming and not hit them.

The problem with answering  a fool is that, when we do, we give the fool credence. Answering a fool in his “folly” tends to legitimize the fool’s efforts and encourages him to continue.

“Like unto him”

As a blogger, I receive comments from people all over the world, and believe me, the world is full of fools. Fortunately, I have the option approve or deny the comments people leave. Some of those who visit my blogs challenge me with questions that are obviously meant to entrap, inflame, and waste time. Answering does nothing but frustrate me and make the fool look important, so now I avoid them.

Interestingly, a recent study has shown that “anger is the internet’s most powerful emotion.” Therefore, it is very likely that we will encounter angry, irate, and irrational rants in some future cyber-conversation. The true mark of wisdom is knowing when to avoid getting into the fray, and when to calmly answer (26:5).

Unfortunately, too many of us in this day and age are falling for the fool’s folly and becoming “like unto him.”  Beware of conversational traps.


Vanishing Profits

Proverbs 21:6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. (NIV)

I have worked with many dishonest people.

When I sold cell phones for a time, I worked with someone who was not afraid to stretch the truth to sell a phone.

“Of course you can set your own music as ringtones!” He would say for a device that does not play music.

“This phone will give you a signal everywhere you go!” He would say for an older device using old technology.

“You can return this anytime you want during your contract!” … Just not true after 30 days!

“I did not know you were their salesman!” He would say to the rest of us after putting a sale in his name.

Initially, he had great sales numbers. It looked like he was going to earn a great commission.

Unfortunately, most of his sales came back after customers realized they did not get what they wanted.

This meant his supposedly high commission was, in fact, quite low. Sometimes it was because the higher-ups in the company figured out he was stealing sales, and they would send the commission to those of us who earned them.

Taken Away

In Luke chapter 19, Jesus shares the parable of the minas, in which a nobleman travels and leaves his money in the care of some servants. Some grow his money while he is gone, but one simply hides it. Those who grew the money were given much responsibility, while the lazy one had everything taken away and given to the better servant.

In Matthew chapter seven, He shares that there will be many who speak and act in His name, but Jesus will tell them “I never knew you.” They are the ones who did everything for personal gain.

The reason these are all related is that in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus tells us to store up treasures in Heaven. We cannot store up treasures in Heaven if we lie through word and deed. If we do, all we think we have stored in Heaven, God will say “All the good you think you did is worthless, because it was a counterfeit.”

In this life or the next, we can lose everything through our dishonesty and selfishness.

Gracious God, forgive us of our deceitfulness and selfishness. Give us Your truth, and help us to be honest and grace-filled.


Don’t Hit Send

Proverbs 17:28 

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. (NLT)

Most of us have encountered fools in our lives. Some of us have been fools. One of the most annoying things in life is a fool who just won’t shut up. I have encountered a few. On one ship I served on we had an engineer cadet who was nicknamed ‘the village idiot’ because of the stupid things he said. It wasn’t that he was unintelligent, just that he never ever put his brain in gear before opening his mouth. As a cadet it was doubly stupid to make himself so visible through saying stuff that identified him as a fool. In my day cadets had to know when to speak and when not to speak.

The same thing is true for us all. We need to know when to speak, how to speak, and when to hold our tongues, however difficult that may be in a given situation. Such wisdom extends also to the written word. How easy it is to write an angry email or text message and hit the send button before we have properly considered the words we have used, and their potential impact. I once hit reply instead of forward on an email in which I had used the words ‘lazy Lenny’ to describe the Swedish individual whose email I thought I was forwarding. Imagine my shock when he replied a minute later advising me, “I am not ‘lazy Lenny lying on the beach all day drinking beer.” However, he did respond very quickly with the translation he had told me would take him at least two weeks.

So if a fool can appear wise just by keeping his mouth shut (or by not immediately hitting the send button on a mail programme or cellphone) then there is hope for all of us, especially those of us who would never consider ourselves to be foolish.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19 NIV)
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. (James 3:9-12 NIV)

Studying or Spewing?

Proverbs 15:28

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.

Spewing Answers

I am pretty sure you know someone who is a “know-it-all”. These are the people who always have an answer for everything, whether what they know is accurate or even true.

One of the big dangers with the “know-it-all” type is that their answers can lead to big problems.

Take it from one of those know-it-all’s.

I used to respond to someone in any situation, and very rarely with “I don’t know.” Much of the time, I was answering people (whether or not they asked me) about other people and what they were or were not doing.

Many times, I would even answer people’s questions with information I had heard in passing, but I would pass off as hard facts the parts I had to fill in.

Do you know how many fights, strained or even ruined relationships, or feelings hatred/bigotry/fear I initiated due to my spewing mouth? (Neither do I)

Studied answers

Perhaps you know that person who rarely speaks, but when they do they sum up or finish a conversation with their amazing words of insight.

I wish I could say I am one of those, but I still have a long way to go. In any event, this is what this type of person is like:

This person listens more than the speak.
This person pays attention to the details, not just what people say.
This person thinks through what they will say, weighing all of the facts.

In other words, this type of person studies each word and action of others and themselves before speaking.

Christians

As Christians, we must study everything we say, each interaction we have with others.

Not only that, we must study God’s Word so that we are “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Giving an answer that we think is true or that sounds right can be very dangerous. This is where heresy and blasphemies begin and spread. This is where non-Christians find reasons to avoid the Church and Jesus.

Lord Jesus, move in our hearts through Your Holy Spirit to seek and speak truth. Guide us in all truth that we might bring peace and healing rather than evil to this world.


My Pride Says I’m Right

Proverbs 13:10

“Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.”

I know I’m right

Have you ever listened to a parent talking with a teenager? It can be fun, to say the least.

You see, a teenager has “seen it all” and “knows about everything” now that they have lived on this earth as long as they have. A teenager “understands what the world is all about” and is “always in perfect control” of his or her life.

But you know, a parent has been through “everything” that a teenager is going through, “knows all about everything” going on, and how to solve every situation.

A parent “has to control” the family and everything that affects them; a teen thinks he can handle things himself.

Both sides know and can.

Not Listening

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, teenager, you have not been around as long as your parents, and they have been through a lot more than you may ever know.

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, parent, teens actually do go through different circumstances and know more than you may realize.

In other words, the reason so many fights break out between parents and teens is that both know everything going on and think they can control it. This usually includes not hearing what the other is saying, because each side is so sure that the other does not understand as much as they think.

And usually they are both right.

And usually they are both wrong.

Wisdom

Just like in any relationship – from parents and children to friends to spouses to complete strangers – contention arises because we fail to listen.

The wise choice is … wait for it … TO LISTEN!

Much contention, fights, and hatred could be avoided if we would just listen to each other, hear each side. Then, find your common ground and dialogue.

If you can not do it, get another person to help, but be willing to hear that person tell you that you are wrong (Matthew 18:15-17). Pride will tell you to fight it.

If you listen to pride, go back to the beginning of this little devotional.

Lord, teach us humility, even though it may hurt to get to it. Give us a heart to listen and hear and to admit when we are wrong. Give us the wisdom to listen to others and know when it is okay to speak (James 1:19)


A Tattler No More

Proverbs 11:13

“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”

There is a reason verse thirteen comes after verse twelve (other than the logical number sequence). As implied and stated yesterday, all people are our neighbors, and what we do and say with/about one person easily comes out around others including loved ones. It comes out of what is in our hearts.

Tattle-tale

In middle and high school (late primary and early secondary school, for all of you who think of it that way), after years of bullying and before being led to the arms of Christ, I let the things of life get to me. It started with not liking certain people, which grew to hating certain people, which grew to hating pretty much all people, which grew to even hating myself. I hid the truth of how I felt, because I was sure no one would understand … or that they might stop me from finding enjoyment.

The only enjoyment I seemed to find was in causing dissension, getting a rise out of others. My method of choice:

Making up stories or discovering stories that others wanted secret and then spreading them.

Needless to say, I did not help matters with my personal life (though, I did get quite good about covering my slandering tracks … not a good thing, to be sure). But I did not care.

It caused more pain than pleasure, not only for others but also me.

Faithful

I know God changed me because of this.

I went from spreading stories out of my hatred to wanting to not cause pain and usurp hatred in my life. In fact, some loved ones jokingly loathed how I changed!

I still spread stories and revealed facts that some found embarrassing, but they were always about me. I learned that to avoid hatred and evil growing within me, keeping myself accountable meant keeping others in the know.

Instead of other people’s dirty laundry, I share my own. It hurts at times, but people know a) how to pray for me and b) that I do understand many things they may be going through.

I do not share, however, everyone else’s secrets. God is gracious enough to forget and help me grow past my sins, so I can forget and help people grow past their secrets and sins. If they are to be shared, the other person can share.

I am only trustworthy because of God. That is really the main point.

Lord, grow in me a faithful spirit. Let others know that I can be trusted with their hurts and secrets. Let others know they can find love in me, because You are in me.