Selective Speaking

— Allan Pole

By Allan Pole, CESLM Board President King Solomon shares a great insight for relationships in Proverbs 9:8-9: “So don’t bother rebuking mockers; they will only hate you. But the wise, when rebuked, will love you all the more.  Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more.” You’ve heard of selective hearing. Let’s talk about selective speaking. When Solomon refers to a mocker in Proverbs 9:8, he uses a strong word that could refer to someone who scorns advice. However, the principle of social sensitivity gleaned from this word, could also refer to someone who just wants you to listen and understand rather than “fix” them. The following video clip, “It’s Not About the Nail” provides a great example of (mis)communication.   We males, particularly, tend to rush to solve problems, rather than taking the time to understand the problems of others. I am learning to ask my wife Brenda, “Do you want to know what I think, or do you just want me to listen?” In the early years of our marriage Brenda would come home from work and vent her frustration over something her boss or coworkers said or did. I would think to myself and blurt out, “How dare they! You need to go back there tomorrow morning and give them a piece of your mind!” You can imagine the frustration Brenda felt and how quickly she would have been unemployed if she had followed my advice.  I am grateful to one of my teachers, Bob Logan, who introduced me to the concept of just-in-case training vs. just-in-time training. Just-in-case training emphasizes the transfer of large volumes of information from teacher to student, with less concentration on application; while just-in-time training seeks to capitalize on teachable moments when the learner sees the immediate application of the information the teacher is imparting. Stop and think about how much the Son of God could have shared with His disciples! Jesus came from heaven to earth and He wanted His followers to know what He knew. For the disciples to try to take it all in, would have been like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Immanuel—God with us—showed incredible self-control by providing input in manageable doses. Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them physically. He knew His departure was coming soon and that the Holy Spirit would come to lead, counsel, and empower His followers. It takes great faith to believe the Lord will teach and correct people when the time is right—and when they are ready. It requires me to step off the throne and let Him take charge. It means I must set aside my pride and my agenda to let God’s work and will be accomplished in others—in His time, not mine. It takes great humility and patience to wait for people to ask for my input—when inside it is just bursting to get out. It demands self-control and sensitivity to know when I have said enough, and when my listeners have heard all they can absorb. The Lord was continually watching and listening for people’s openness to spiritual truths. He would not always speak plainly but would sometimes veil His points using parables—then wait and see who would press Him for more clarity. What a brilliant way to sort through those who were open to hear, and those who were not! The next time you are about to express your opinion stop and ask yourself, “Am I saying this for my benefit or for the other person’s benefit? Does this person really want to know what I think?”