Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thinking & Speaking

We've been looking at some selected themes in Proverbs in my Sunday morning class.  Last Sunday we began talking about the need to Think Before You Speak.  My mother use to gently remind me of the importance of that regularly.  One of the Proverbs we discussed was, "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (16:23-24)  One of life's greatest challenges is saying the right thing at the right time.  And timing is a huge part of it.  It is no accident that the very next verse is the familiar "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (v.25)  While our words may not lead to a physical death, they certainly can lead to the end of a relationship.
My "after class thinking" since Sunday took me down a parallel road with that thought.  Sometimes wisdom isn't a matter of saying the right thing at the right time, but simply knowing when to keep your mouth shut.  One of the great lessons I learned from my wife's parents, my in-laws, is if your adult children don't ask for advice - don't give it.  In addition to seeking their own sense of independence, they are also seeking acceptance and affirmation.  They don't always approach life the same way you did when you were there age - so what!  They need to form their own priorities and family traditions just like we did.  Our job is to support and encourage them, and keep our opinions to ourselves unless asked.  My in-laws were the best at that, and I hope we are too.  I'd love to be asked for advice or in-put, if it's really needed, but the one thing I remember clearly about being a young married "out-law" is that need to prove I was capable and worthy, and at times that kept me from seeking guidance that I'm sure would have helped.  And through the years, after that "need to prove myself" became un-necessary, I did want to know "what they thought" about certain things.
I have seen the damage that can be done when wisdom is replaced by opinionated and judgemental thoughtlessness.  "Our way" is not the "best way" - it's just ours, and to selfishly insist on "our way" is the quickest way to have loves ones seek "the highway" and not the one that leads back home.  "Pleasant words are a honeycomb" and maybe that's why a loving, considerate, and wise family spend so much time sharing those words - on the phone, FaceTime, texting, Skyping, and - most of all - being together.

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