When Must We Peel the Tape Off?

Last week’s post A Talker Learns to Listen brought a greater than usual response. I discovered that many, surprisingly many, of my blog readers confessed to struggling with the same tendency to talk first, listen later, and sometimes, to not listen at all.

All this focus on keeping our mouths shut and listening seemed to call for a companion piece—focusing on occasions we should speak but often don’t. Here is an attempt at bringing balance.

The first occasion that popped into my mind is mentioned in James 5:16. “Confess your sins to each other. . .” We are not very good at confessing our sins, are we? Yes, we confess them to God in prayer, but what about confessing them to our spouse, a family member or a friend?

Tape offObviously if we have sinned against someone—like lying to them—we need to confess to that person and ask for forgiveness. But what if our sin was hidden? Like covetous, greedy thoughts, wanting what someone else has.

Even though internal and hidden, it is sin, and we need to confess, first to God, and then to someone we are close to, someone we can trust. Think of a time you confessed your sin to someone. Was it easy? Probably not. Staying silent would have been much easier. Yet when we have something to confess, is exactly the time to rip the tape off our mouths and talk. It is God’s command.

James goes on to say, “. . . pray for each other . . .” Another occasion to remove the tape.

Proverbs 31:28 tells of the virtuous wife and mother whose children and husband rip the tape off their mouths to call her blessed and praise her. Yes. We are already used to praising God and thanking Him for all He is and does for us, but we also need express our gratitude in words of praise and thanks to the people in our life for who they are and what they do for us.

And, speaking of praising God, the Psalms are full of encouragement to take off the tape and tell others what God has done for us. Ps. 73:28, “I will tell of all Your deeds.” Ps. 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” I call these God-stories and do workshops helping people to recognize, remember, repeat and record them.

One of my correspondents warned me not to blithely come to her and launch into a God-story of what He had done for me without finding out if, perhaps, she had a story about herself that she needed to tell. Excellent advice! We need to become aware of the personal needs of the potential listener, as well as the time, the situation, and the environment.

According to Job 16:5, and 1 Thess. 5:11 we need to rip off the tape and use our mouths to encourage one another, comfort others, and build each other up.

Then there is admonishing. It seems a lot of people have no problem admonishing others, but are rather resistant to receiving reprimands. It makes me chuckle to read the instructions in Colossians 3:16, “. . .  admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit . . .” It sounds like our rebukes are to be sung, not spoken. We have all had well-meaning people wag their finger in our face to reprimand us. Next time, maybe we could suggest they sing their rebuke—it’s biblical!

Writers like me invite knowledgeable people to read our stories and critique them. Authors even pay editors to go through their books and tell us all that is wrong, and give instructions on how to fix the problems. The Bible is packed with examples of people instructing others. We need to open our mouths to instruct, but only if the person we are coaching is open to learn from us.

Note that nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to tell stories about ourselves that make us look good. Yet, those come the most easily to mind, don’t they? When we are the heroes of our stories, the tape needs to be applied. “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth,”Proverbs 27:2.

Which of these verbs in the paragraph headings do you find the most difficult to activate in your life?