Monday Memes: Be Silent?

In today’s society, it is hard to think of anyone being quiet!  We are all so busy giving our opinions, telling others what we know, discussing world problems, correcting children, and on and on and on.  There is a LOT of talking going on today!

Why is it that we feel the need to always respond?  Could it be that we want to make sure that no one gets the wrong impression?  We are so worried about what they might think that we fill every last moment with explanation?  I think that is part of it.

This meme really underscored something I’ve been learning over the past few years.  You see, being a perfectionist, type A, an analyst (meaning every word you ever write is scrutinized and picked apart), and extremely logical, I was always worried about how my words would be perceived.  Both written and verbal.  In fact, if they were perceived improperly, it would often lead to arguments filled with more words!  As a kid, my relatives on both sides had already decided I would be a lawyer of some kind!  There’s even a story about how my relative took me on a 1.5 hour drive and I talked non-stop the whole time!! We will just say that I’ve always been an extrovert and a talker! I get it honest in my family!

But as I entered into my first career field, that was tempered.  Well, at least about work related matters!  Then as trials came through my life, I began to become more and more quiet.  I was not sinking into depression (although that was part of my trials), I was actually coming to a better understanding of the example Jesus set for us.

You see, Jesus didn’t ask us to argue, protest, demonstrate, or even debate.  He told us to love.  This sounds so simplistic, yet it set me on a life changing transformation.  As I dove into the Bible about this burgeoning idea, I realized that Jesus didn’t even argue when his life was on the line.  Seriously!  They even asked him to defend himself and he didn’t!

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “you have said so.”  But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Matthew 27:11-14 (ESV)

You have to understand, I spent my whole life proving myself to everyone, all the time.  I never backed down.  I was always proving my worth to the whole world. (probably that type A personality!) The idea of your life being on the line and saying absolutely nothing in your own defense was mind boggling.  Yet that is exactly what Jesus did.

Throughout his life, Jesus was not defending who he was to anyone.  He was who he was (and his Father was “I am who I am”)!  Yes, he did do miracles and such so that people could see who he was, but he never sat down and explained, argued, or debated over his worth, who he was, how he felt about politics, … you get the idea.

Being that analyst that I am, I decided to conduct my own social experiment, of sorts.  I decided that I would not openly respond to anything unless I saw it being productive for the Kingdom.  In other words, I would analyze why I was engaging in a conversation.  If it wasn’t for a specific purpose, I didn’t do it.  Oh, and that purpose couldn’t just be to prove myself right!  And that is when I realized something.

If you are quiet, people will make up the rest.

If I didn’t engage in some political “debate,” then I was immediately labeled as something the person thought up.  I would make a statement without explaining the why, and the other person would automatically assume the why, then lump me into a category (ie: judgmental, stuck up, etc.).  By not posting this or that on social media, people started assuming that I was mad, or that I felt ______ about it, etc.. Some even made up things about what I was doing with my life!

And these things weren’t just with acquaintances, family and friends did the same.  In fact, it was quite interesting to see who filled in and who didn’t.  It didn’t have anything to do with who knew me the best, but it had a lot to do with how spiritually mature the person was.

You see, people will always talk.  This makes us feel the need to circumvent what they might think of us.  But the truth is, we need to just rest in God’s grace.  We are who he says we are.  It doesn’t matter what others think.  So if your talk isn’t benefitting people, then why are you engaging?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)

Let me ask you something, how many times did your angry (or heated) response actually change someone’s mind?  Seriously?  How many times did those “got ya” moments turn into a positive engagement? I’ll venture to guess never.

Then, something else occurred to me on the journey of transformation.  The Bible says be slow to anger and don’t let the sun go down on your anger and all that, right?  But pay close attention to the wording…

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, 

slow to speak, slow to anger:

James 1:19 (ESV)

That’s right: every person needs to be quick to hear and slow to speak!  There’s not room for “he’s got a short temper” or “what they’re doing is wrong!” All Christians are to be quick to listen and slow to speak.    But why are we to be slow to talk and quick to listen?

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how 

you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

We are quick to hear so that we know what the issue is (FYI – sometimes it isn’t actually what you are talking about.  So if you are focused, you realize the topic is really about something else.).  We are slow to speak in order to listen with God’s ears.  We are also slow to speak in order to formulate what we are going to say and to give ourselves the opportunity to say it in love.  After all, we don’t want to be the person filling in the gaps on someone else.  Which leads me to another revelation.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)

I never struggled with giving people the benefit of the doubt until I was in my upper 20’s.  Then, due to my careers, some bad situations in churches, and some life issues, I started becoming judgmental.  Not in the “I’m better than you” way, but I started lumping people into categories (much like the meme).  However this verse stopped me in my tracks.  It was an instant reversal in my mind.  I do NOT want to be held accountable for all the words that come out of my mouth! However, I will be, so I better make sure that what is coming out of my mouth is what God wants to come out of my mouth.

I’m not saying we don’t have hard discussions or stand up for what is right.  I’m saying that at the end of it, people should know we are a people of love.  This is harder and harder in our age as people think any disagreement is an act of hate.  However, you will see (as I did) that although the person you are speaking to may not like what you’re saying, others who see your behavior will notice that you are different than other people.  That “weirdness” will open up opportunities for you to talk about Jesus.

It does hurt when people assume the worst of us, or make up things that aren’t true.  It’s not a comfortable place to be. But what are we here for?  We are here for God’s purposes.  And that includes the conversations we have and the type of speech we use. I challenge you to do your own experiment!  It is hard, believe me!

1) Do you find yourself in a lot of heated conversations, either in person or on social media?

2) If so, think about how you are portraying Jesus to the other person(s).  If Jesus were in your position, how would he have handled it?

3)  Try my experiment for a week.  Record the results.  How did people react to you?  How did your mind change?

4)  Do you fill in the gaps when others are silent?  

5)  If so, take this week to do some mental training exercises.  If you don’t know for a fact something you are thinking, the focus your brain on what is factual.  Do not fill in or add to.  Write it down if it helps.  At the end of the week, record how your mind changed, or didn’t change, about the person. 

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