krikketgirl: (Smug)
I talk a lot. I talk as part of my job. I talk to my kids. I talk online in a blog. I talk for fun and for profit. And I certainly know what it's like to say the wrong thing at the wrong time...or to say something when I should have waited a heartbeat and not spoken at all. Sometimes, words just fly out not in the right order, and the only harm caused is that I have to stop and explain myself. Sometimes, though, I speak in the heat of the moment, when I haven't reflected on a situation enough to even know how to respond appropriately...and while those occasions are usually few and far between, they are painful.

So yesterday's "Smart Saying" spoke directly to me. "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).

For some of us, it's hard not to be hasty in words. I think in words; they flitter and dart around me. I find every experience I have translated into words, every emotion tagged with a word. It's ridiculously hard to keep from simply blurting those words out. But here's the thing: words require pondering. As Mark Twain wrote, "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." Words have power, and it must be harnessed and used carefully--and I find that this is especially so when we're dealing with people. And aren't we always dealing with people when we use words? As soon as our words are in a public forum, they are affecting people.

Surely there can be no more public forum than the Internet. The words I type here I may as well stand on my front porch and shout to the neighborhood at large: I don't know who is reading, and I don't know what they will do with my words. Many of us have become as comfortable with the computer as we are with the phone as we are with face-to-face conversation. But this brings with it all kinds of new issues to deal with when it comes to our words. Who is reading what you write on Facebook? Your kids? Your parents? Your supervisor? Would you want a prospective employer to read that long screed you just posted about your current job? Do you really want your impassioned attack on a former friend to be haunting the Internet forever?

As our communication options have increased, it seems that our sense of propriety when it comes to speech has decreased. Sometimes I shudder at the things I read and hear. A hasty post, a hasty e-mail, words written in the heat of anger--and a friendship is destroyed, a reputation is damaged, a job is lost. And if you've accidentally been on the sending end of those words, you know that they are so very hard to take back.

This parable was written a good long time ago, but it is still relevant. We all must learn to be very careful with our words, whether here on the Internet or behind the doors of our home. We must learn to keep them in their proper place--like fire, they make good servants but very poor masters. Let us not embrace folly by being quick with what they say.
krikketgirl: (Default)
Yesterday, I was reading a blog post about Proverbs 27:14, which reads, "If you shout a pleasant greeting to your neighbor too early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse!"

One thing I love about the proverbs is how thought-provoking they are. We start with the obvious: even nice things--good things--can be annoying if they're done at the wrong time. If I'm bringing you homebaked chocolate chip cookies, but I deliver them at 5 a.m. with a strident ring on the doorbell, the effect of the nice gesture is going to be rather lost. There is a time and a place for everything!

Of course, we can then step further and ask, "Well, how early is too early?" I mean, I'm up at 6 on school mornings, but I have friends who shouldn't be disturbed before 10 a.m., or even noon. A lot depends on the day and the person and the circumstances. So we have here another thought: just because you are up early (and happy), don't assume that other people are! There's a certain amount here of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. As we know, "Do unto others as you'd have done to you" only goes so far.

Lastly, though, it occurred to me that we can take this another step and put ourselves in the shoes of the person who is counting the greeting as a curse. Let me tell you about two boys first. We'll call one Boy A and one Boy B. Boy A wakes with a bounce and an enthusiastic heart. He rises full of vim and vigor, ready to tackle breakfast and running on all four cylinders.

The other boy, Boy B, wakes halfway, falls asleep, and needs about five wake-up calls to finally rise. He gets dressed lying on the floor to "use less energy" and then trails into the kitchen, eyelids at half-mast. He bids me "good morning" in a humming language that does not usse words. He does not want to talk, he does not want to hear a funny joke, he does not, in fact, want anything other than to eat really slowly while being left alone.

These two sit next to each other.

You can imagine the fun and frivolity as Boy A greets his brother with verve and joy and Boy B thinks about shoving napkins in his ears to avoid the sound of Boy A's voice. Two boys who usually get along very well can be at loggerheads within minutes--one crying and angry and the other exasperated--"I didn't DO anything! I just told him a joke!"

Now, here's the thing. One's pleasant morning greeting is being counted as a curse. Should he know better than to jump immediately into conversation and frivolity? Yes. But on the other hand...Boy B should know that his brother is not trying to be rude or loud, but rather to spend some time with him before leaving for school.

Which brings us to how personally most of us take things when a gesture falls flat. We are quite quick to snarl to ourselves and to others about that loser who woke us up with his noisy singing. I think that there is a lesson about that here, too: look at the intent. Look at the motivation. Was the person really trying to be annoying? Were they really being completely careless? Or were they making a gesture that didn't communicate itself in the way it was intended?

Whether we're morning people or not, we can all learn something about time, place, and motivation from this parable.

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krikketgirl

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