I confess that I continue in life-long-learning. I am amazed at how much God continues to teach me from His Word, in life and from other people. I like to be right. I’m often looking for the right answer, because I would like to be right. My Father and Lord are righteous, so that is only natural. It just seems like a life-time is necessary to learn everything. That makes life interesting.
Recently, I learned that I should be more judicious about what I say at the right time. I talk for a living, so speaking and discussions are a way of life. However, in certain conversations, it’s better to listen and not respond. It’s better to take it in and make sure I understand before I respond, because sometimes the conversations spiral down instead of build up. Has that every happened to you?
I love the guys that I’ve been discipling for the last five years. They are incredible friends. They realize life is short, so they don’t get bent out of shape when someone says something blunt or even wrong. They do not get concerned about walking on egg shells. They trust each other to let a zinger (even an insult) go by and pick up the conversation in another way or another time. They know how to get through life well.
But not every relationship is like that. A conversation can easily spiral down, because a comment is made and the other person defends himself by trying to clarify. Then another comment is made followed by another clarification. And before you know it, the adrenalin is pumping, the tone of voice is staccato, the decibels have risen and a wall is flung up. It reminds me of several Proverbs:
A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart. (Pro. 18:2 NKJ)
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. (Pro 15:14 NKJ)
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. (Pro.15:2 NKJ)
Some of us take a lifetime of learning when to listen and when to talk. The fool is close to his own destruction and you can tell by his words,
Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. (Pro.10:14 NKJ)
A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. (Pro. 18:6 NKJ)
A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back. (Pro. 29:11 NKJ)
Basically it comes from pride on the part of one or both of the participants. One or both of the persons may have had a hard day or is not feeling well. He also may be a spiritual infant and is self-focused or self-centered.
In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride… (Pro 14:3 NKJ)
It is a wise man who knows when to respond to build up and when to keep quiet. The quiet fool is considered perceptive:
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. (Pro. 17:28 NKJ)
Sometimes it is better to listen for now and wait for a time of non-confrontation to pick up the conversation again. Discernment is extremely important in all conversations. One of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 24:4-5,
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Pro. 26:4-5 NKJ)
Be quiet in life, don’t respond until a time of non-confrontation and don’t respond until you know the person WILL listen to you. Why? Think about it…
How does God respond to you? I was righteously angry about some sin people were in and the indifference they were expressing. I took it out on God while I was driving my car. It was pretty heated. Fortunately, God didn’t zap me. He just listened and I remembered Proverbs 29:11 (above). How many times does God correct “everything you say or do wrong”? How many times do you hear the booming voice from heaven say, “Okay, (insert your name), you’re wrong here and here. Get your act together.” How many times does God immediately fix you when you are saying something or doing something wrong? I have to be honest, He doesn’t with me!
No, God is patiently waiting on me to see it in the Word, so I am ready to listen to hear Him speak through it. Then by the conviction of and empowerment by His Spirit, He leads me to live a more holy life. All that divine work is when I’m ready to listen and be transformed. He doesn’t force me to change. He waits on me. Why don’t I treat others that way?
His love is incredible. He patiently shows mercy. His love compels me to want to pursue His holiness and disciple other people in humility. His love is inexpressible! How awesome and great it is. Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us…” (2 Cor. 5:14) and Peter expressed about Jesus, “…whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Pet. 1:8, emphasis added)
I’m convinced that the more I listen, the more I’ll have to say…at the right time.