Wisdom Speaks with the End in Mind
Words are funny things. They are powerful. God created with words. Words play many roles as they: Inspire. Instruct. Hurt. Convict. Comfort. Entertain. Enlighten. As they do their jobs they produce varied emotions in the speaker and the hearer. Upon reception of words we may cry, laugh, sigh, smile, cringe, or even scream. Have you ever longed to own a “word catcher” that could catch careless words somewhere between your mouth and someone’s ear? I have. Unfortunately, there is no such thing—so the burden is on the speaker. If not careful, as the Red Sox would say, “Damage done.”
Wyndham asked me a wise and rather profound question this week. I was in conversation with someone who was assisting us in a particular task. All was good. Perceiving a problem, I communicated something to this person in the form of a question, reminder, and plea. I didn’t raise my voice, and I tried to be kind and positive. However, this was not the first time I’ve spoken similar words to this person, and the words have yet to be well-received. As I think back, maybe this was the fifth or sixth time over the past year I have spoken similar words. However, I thought perhaps the time was right to bring up the previously visited topic. Again.
Well, it wasn’t.
After the person didn’t react well the mood changed. Wyndham asked me later, “So, what were you hoping to accomplish?”
I thought about this question for a while. What was I trying to accomplish? I did feel, upon evaluation, that I was trying to bring about needed change for that person’s (and my) well-being. However, I thought through other times I’ve had this same conversation. What did I seek to accomplish then? Some of those answers would have been to let the person know: I don’t approve. I want you to know my level of frustration. You’re not doing “it” the right way.
Whenever words are born of frustration, or dare I say “condemnation,” they don’t accomplish good. They don’t strengthen relationships, While the end results of what we hope to accomplish may be right, timing and attitude are key. It is wise to ask: How will my words affect the relationship? What am I hoping to accomplish? How would I feel if I put myself in the hearer’s place? Am I most concerned about speaking my words, or am I more concerned about the overall welfare of the hearer?
I would wish Paul to describe me as he does Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.
I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.
I must get “me” out of the equation and wait until the emotions of the moment pass and frustration levels wane. While speaking the truth in love is needed and right (Ephesians 4:15 ), wisdom is needed for when and how to speak. Often, this can be determined by stopping to consider the wise question,
What am I hoping to accomplish?