No, I’m not quitting the blog! Just something I tell myself when I feel like I’ve said enough (or too much!).
I remember years ago I preached a two-part series on the book of Ruth. Each message lasted around an hour, maybe even more. People enjoyed the first message, so I figured they’d like the subsequent one, too.
The audience seemed to, but toward the end, I noticed a lady in the front row who, after making eye contact with me, pointed to her watch. “It’s time to go,” I could hear her say in my head. “Finish up!”
The Bible has a verse (Job 31:40) that could have helped me wrap up faster. It’s a statement about the patriarch Job who suffered through the loss of his family, his wealth, and even his health. Quiet and resigned at first, he agonized inside and eventually erupted, venting his pent-up frustrations. In chapter after chapter Job analyzed his misery, cried out for justice, debated his friends, and argued with God. Finally, after numerous and extensive complaints, “the words of Job are ended.”
Falling silent–that’s a skill all communicators, including public speakers like church leaders, would do well to develop. Say what you need to, and then stop!
How much is enough? It varies. Sometimes, you have to take a while because that’s what the situation demands. Paul spoke all night to a church in the city of Troas (Acts 20:7-12) because he thought he might never see them again. Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16). So duration alone isn’t a problem.
But overdoing things is.
Solomon advises that you get to the point in your communication with God (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Don’t waste your time when you talk to the Lord. Respect Him with clear thoughts and honest emotions. You don’t have to hide what’s in your heart; He already knows what you need before you ask (Matthew 6:8).
And don’t dominate conversations. Controlling everything that’s being said shows that you care more about yourself than you do about others. Proverbs 18:2 warns that “a fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”
If you esteem others, prove it by giving them a chance to express themselves. The Bible tells you how: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
When you slow down your natural impulse to jump in and solve their problems, that reluctance automatically limits the volume of your words. When you deliberate, you choose those words more carefully than if you blurted out whatever you felt.
And when you exercise such restraint, you find yourself gaining the courage and graciousness you may need to confront or challenge someone’s perspective. As Simon Sinek put it, “the confident ask questions to learn what will connect. The insecure just keep talking with the hope something will stick.”
Self-control fortifies the words you share. It makes them count.
Say a little less. Try it. See if you don’t find yourself more peaceful, settled, and patient. You’ll probably discover yourself listening better to others and even to Jesus. And you’ll learn more in the process. How will that change you?
Listening, learning, growing–isn’t that what you really want?