How many times have you said the wrong thing at the wrong time and then wish the floor would open up and swallow you as you realize with embarrassment the mistake you have made. Listening again to the almost 20-minute monologue of Michelle Wolf at this year’s Washington Correspondents Dinner I found myself wondering how she really felt as the material that had been prepared was delivered. Michelle in interviews since the event has acknowledged that she thought the content wasn’t going over well in the room at the time but she was glad she stuck to her guns and completed the set as it was planned. I was reminded of the proverb in the Bible that says, ‘Even the sweetest of songs is as vinegar poured on a wound to one who is heavy in heart.’ (Proverbs 25:20)
Putting our foot in it as it were, can, of course, be something we do through no fault of our own when the delicateness of the situation is unknown to us. At other times though, as with the recent Correspondents Dinner, there is no excuse: our gaffe is due to the fact we perhaps opened our mouth before we engaged the brain! How often have we been so full of our own news in conversation that we scarcely listen to what is being said in turn? This is particularly the case in politics right now as candidates seek to win your vote. The recent debates, broadcast on the radio, have politicians not listening to their opponent but rather talking over their answer to a question with their own solution. Perhaps the character of Burr, in the hit musical, ‘Hamilton,’ has it right when he seems to be constantly telling Hamilton to ‘talk less, smile more.’ It has echoes of James’s advice when he says, ‘It is essential to understand this, my friends: be slow to speak and swift to listen.’ (James 1:19)
How often are we busily framing our response before someone has barely started to speak? Little wonder, then we end up saying the wrong thing. Sensitivity is not some magical gift possessed by the select few; it comes from being slow to speak and ready to listen. Are you as good at listening as you should be? Are you more intent on sharing your news and views than hearing what others are telling you?
Perhaps this can be your prayer this week?
Loving God, forgive me all the times I have failed to listen to others, too preoccupied with my own affairs to hear what they were saying to me. Forgive me the hurt I have caused, the need I have overlooked and the opportunities I have missed to offer help, all because I have not had ears to hear. Teach me to be open to what people are saying and sensitive to their needs, and so may I be ready to respond in the right way, at the right place and at the right time. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Shalom to you my friend,