Posted by: ritagone | July 11, 2018

How We Use — and Misuse — Our Words (and Why We Don’t Like To Be Silent)!



I am fascinated by our words, by our ability to speak, something which we own apart from the animals, and by our awareness – or lack of it – as to when to NOT speak, when, instead, perhaps to listen.

Most of us, I’ve found through the decades, are absolutely terrible listeners.  This is a skill that not only do we often not possess, but we are usually not even interested in honing it as a skill in ourselves.  Why?  Because then we would lose the spotlight, the focus on us.  And that would be, in our distorted minds and hearts, disastrous.

There’s a program regularly on cable television called “Actors on Actors,” which is a roundtable panel discussion of seven or eight currently prominent actors or actresses talking about their craft and their lives, moderated (or at least attempted to be moderated) by a staffer from “The Hollywood Reporter.”  (You can usually tell, humorously, that he or she has had more experience writing about actors and actresses than actually attempting to herd their conversations and keep them on point.  And keep two or three of them from running away with the narration.)

        Anyway, a few weeks ago the panel was composed of current TV series comedic actresses, and it was interesting and fascinating to watch to see which people hijacked the discussion – no matter what the question posed to all of them – and which did not.  I observed that even when one of the quieter, more subdued women was speaking, one of the more flamboyant “please look at me!” personas would manage to capture attention just by exhibiting a very dramatic reaction to something someone else said.  “Oh no!  That didn’t happen!!!” and the camera would of course shift to that reaction, that actress, to capture the comment, moving away ironically and surreptitiously from the woman who should have been the focus because of her original statement or story.

How subtle.  How selfish. How like all of us.

Timothy Keller talks about this kind of behavior in his devotional “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life,” which he wrote with his wife Kathy and which, as I’ve shared quite a few times this past year, I’m using early in my mornings as a brilliant but often painful devotional.

He talks about “the wise hold their tongues rather than multiplying words.” “Proverbs,” he goes on to say on July 9’s devotional, “consistently teaches that fewer words are better than many words…The more you say, the less you get to listen to others, and so the less well informed your words will be when you do speak them…Then, too, people who talk too much appear to be more interested in themselves than in you, and often it is the case.”  The actresses on this program who kept pulling the focus back to themselves, weren’t remotely interested in the ones who were speaking by letting them know they understood what had been said; they were saying, “Please, let the attention come back to me!  It’s been away from me for far too long!” That is to say, about two minutes.

Studying people in this mode of “How can I rather underhandedly regain control of the microphone?” is fascinating to me.  Studying people when and how they use their speech is a really big deal.  Again, Keller makes this point in one of his devotionals: “Finally, controlling our tongue is a way to gain self-control in general.  If we can master the difficult task of controlling our speech and our desire to pontificate about every subject, then self-control in other areas will be much easier.”  He references James 3:1-2. (“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  For we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”)

I reference Jeremiah 12:5 when thinking about this concept that Keller talks about: “If we can master the difficult task of controlling our speech and our desire to pontificate about every subject, then self-control in other areas will be much easier.”  Jeremiah 12:5, tattooed on my right inside forearm so that I won’t easily forget it, says: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?”  In other words, if you can’t do the easy things of life, how will you ever be able to do the hard ones?

If you can’t learn to listen, to keep your mouth shut, to not need the attention, the focus to always be on you, then you’ll have difficulty, I imagine, to be able to do anything of substance, because, like the actresses on the program I watched, instead of living in the moment and making life better for those around you, you’ll be worried sick about how people are perceiving you, how you’re coming across, and whether or not you’re in control the way you want and feel you need to be.

Think about it.

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