Think Before You Speak

When I was a little girl, my mom would say to me “Kina, thinking before you speak.” Now days I’m afraid that far to many of us do just the opposite, we speak before we think. As I contemplate this idea, I am especially thinking of all the “speaking” that is done in social media.The 
When I write, especially about experiences I have had, I often omit specific details. Instead of giving you all the particulars, I deliberately choose to be vague. Sometimes I simply present thoughts, emotions, or even my reactions. I intentionally write this way, never meaning to expose all details to the general public.
In light of my recent post on Strength & Vuneralibility this concept may seem contradictory, but today I’m not focusing on my ability to be open, but rather my need for prudence. In a world filled with opportunities for instant unedited publishing, it is essential to use discretion before allowing every thought and opinion I have enter the public domain.
What a difference it would make if we all heeded the old adage of thinking before we speak. Imagine the problems, misunderstandings and hurt feelings which could be avoided if every word could be scrutinized before being released.
Unfortunately, each of us does not have the luxury of employing a personal editor. Instead we think, we write, we post and then we forget. Perhaps overlooking how our words effect, hurt or offend others. In some cases we share other’s stories which were never ment for us to share or we tell how others have hurt us, not considering how our comments could hurt them in return. Do we not realize the consequences of our words? Is this today’s norm, to throw care to the wind & share without regret? Or is it possible that the idea of thinking before we speak still rings true in our hearts?
Perhaps we must learn to become our own editors! Training ourselves to refrain from expressing every thought which comes through our minds. Using good judgement sprinkled with a little common sense to help reclaim the valuable discipline our Moms once taught us of thinking before we speak. 
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A Little Advice ;-)

Something that is obvious, but worthy of consideration is the predicament of the Unsolicited Advice Giver. The truth is,  we do NOT need to listen to, nor value all advice which comes our way! 

God has not called others to live our life, nor uniquely prepared them to do so. Now don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that we should throw all advice to the wind. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us that plans often fail because of lack of counselors. Instead, I am suggesting that, we should know how to identify “Advice Givers” who have “won the right to be heard”. 

Simply put, Advice Givers, worthy of our ear should do more than just “tell us a thing or two.” For sanity’s sake, we need to know how to identify Advice Giver who has something beneficial to say. Here are a few guidelines that come to mind when I think of such a person. 

Advice Givers should:

…have a relationship with us, know us and be part of our lives. 

…genuinely care about us….and show their care in more ways than merely sharing their opinion. 

…earn our respect by the way they live their lives. 

…possess Godly character. 

…give advice which is in line with Scripture. 

…understand that advice by definition, is not a command. 

And finally,

…encourage us to pray and seek God regarding the advice they are giving. 

I am the first to admit that I have plenty of opinions. And for certain throughout my life, I have given advice in moments when I should have held my tongue.  But God has been teaching me where, when and to whom my opinions should be shared. God has also strongly impressed upon me to not usurp the Holy Spirit’s role as man’s counselor. My advice, is a matter of opinion and NOT law for others. HENCE, advice should be given and come with the understanding that God has incorporated free will into the fabric of our lives. It is a basic principle which He follows when dealing with mankind, because if this, we should follow suit. (Bearing this in mind, we are each responsible to God for making decisions which honor Him.)

Unfortunately, many Advice Givers which I have encountered hold little to none of the above listed qualities. If my experience is the norm then it begs the question, “How will we respond when someone freely shares unwanted advice?”

Perhaps the most important element in responding to the opinions of Unwanted Advice Giver is to formulate a plan and have it in place before said person heads our way.  Deciding in advance how to respond will make responses more gracious and palatable.  Without a predetermined plan, it is likely that we will either not respond well or the opposite, allow ourselves to be overrun. 

Elements which may be considered when formulating a plan…

1) Simply do not make yourself available to Unsolicited Advice Giver. It is not necessary to be available to every person who thinks they need to tell us a thing or two. 

2) If they manage to catch us off guard, (& they most likely will) be prepared to respond with gentleness and respect. 

3) All interactions with such persons should be direct! (NOT rude… direct). Ambiguity on our part, conveys the message that they are not overstepping their bounds. Instead of closing the door on their intrusions, this just adds fuel to the fire, encouraging them to impose unwanted opinions again (& possibly more frequently) in the future. 

During a time several years ago when I had experienced a particularly difficult encounter with Aggressive Unsolicited Advice Giver. A good friend suggested the following response. It has helped me, to graciously exit subsequent encounters. 

“Thank you for your opinion, I’ll pray about that.” 

At first I wasn’t convinced that this response was direct enough. In fact the response is pretty non-confrontational, & after much assult, I was READY for confrontation. But after putting this simple phrase into practice, I have found that it highlights several essential facts and does it in a very nonthreatening way. 

1) Unsoilted Advice Giver’s advice is infact a matter of their opinion. 

2) I will seek God as to the validity of their opinion in my situation.

3) God’s opinion is more important to me than their opinion. 

4) Jesus Christ’s death bought me direct communication with God. I am His and I trust Him to speak directly to me on important matters. 

 Just incase this simple reply is ineffective, I have formulated a backup response. “Thank you for your concern, but I already have a circle of wise counselors in my life from whom I consult in difficult matters.” (I don’t just say this,  I actually do surround myself with Godly people who have won the right to speak into my life!)

An important element in self protection, especially from Unsolicited Advice Giver, relates to not making yourself available to them. This is also referred to as setting life boundaries. Boundaries are ment to protect us and keep us healthy. It is essential that we learn how to place them in our daily lives. Living without boundaries gives others free reign to trample us any time they see fit. This can make life difficult, & at best frustrating! Setting boundaries is not something that comes easily for most of us. In fact, at first, it can be quite a challenge, but with a little instruction and practice, boundaries can be set with ease. And after putting them in place we find that encounters with Unsolicited Advice Giver become fewer and farther between. 

(For more thoughts on setting boundaries consider reading Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend’s book aptly entitled “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life”)

My Utmost for His Highest

Many years ago someone gave me a copy of, My Utmost for His Highest, a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers. Apart from the Bible, this one little book has done more to challenge me and positively impact my life than any book I have read. 

To be honest, at first I could not easily understand Chamber’s writing. But after having the book recommended to me time and time again by a myriad of people, I decided it was a must read. So, I formed a system to help my comprehension. Each day I read three devotionals. I would read yesterday’s, today’s, and then tomorrow’s selections. Usually by the third read, the light bulb within my mind would go off and I would understand. 

It has been many years since I have had to read the daily selections several times before comprehending. Now I know many of them by heart. It is amazing how reading it never becomes dull and that often, I discover new and fresh meaning within the text. Best of all, I love how forever faithful it is to point me to Christ and the Bible. 

Last year, somehow, I lost my copy! I must have left it in a hotel or at someone’s house. I’ve often wondered if the one who found it is enjoying it as much as I did. I took advantage of the time without my treasured book, to begin reading another daily devotional. Although it was good and held many biblical insights, it didn’t match the depth and insight revealed by Chambers. I found myself missing my old friend! Imagine my delight when I unwrapped a Christmas gift this year, only to discover a brand new copy. 

If you are tired of reading the status quo and are looking for something more from a devotional, I highly recommend this one. I warn you, as you read, you will be challenged! The truths held within will not allow any true seeker of Christ to remain the same. It will touch you, and require a response from you. If you are looking to add a boost to your mental and spiritual diet, if you crave spiritual meat instead of milk, I highly recommend, Oswald Chamber’s daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest! You won’t regret it!

Strength & Vulnerability

A friend of mine is an amazing writer. He just has a way with words. After reading his work, I find myself comtemplating life. I begin to ask myself questions like, “Am I deliberate enough in how I choose to live? Do I make choices which keep life easy or ones which force me to experience life more fully? Do I just go through the motions or am I really living?”
I asked him recently if he was still blogging. And if so, why I had not read anything from him in a while. Written within his response was this sentence.
“I find it difficult to muster the strength & vulnerability to write.”
That statement has given me a lot to think about lately…..in fact, it echoes within my mind. After much contemplation I realized that perhaps lack of strength and vulnerability is the real reason I find blogging difficult.
For me, writing is a way to process. It helps me fine tune feelings which are jumbled inside of me. I am not quick on my feet, like some people; instead I process better when given time. I write and read and re-read and write some more and tweek all along the way. At the end of a piece, I discover that I have uncovered what at first I could not put into words.
So, I’ve been mulling over the phrase, strength and vulnerability. I realize that the writing which flows from me, often bottle necks just before publishing. The strength and vuneralibility required to click the “post” button on my blog, often overwhelms me and inhibits me from allowing you into my world. At times I’d prefer just to keep my thoughts confidential.
Yet life and any true relationship requires vuneralibility. So I continue to mentally chew on the idea of finding strength and vulnerability to write…to publish. It begs the question, “Am I willing to lay down my pride and be real with those around me?”
Venerability requires me to open myself to those around me; to family and friends. It urges me to remove the mask which I so easily hide behind and become real with myself and others.
I wonder what life would be like, if we all had a little more strength to be vulnerable?

The Road Less Traveled

Have you ever been alone with Him?
Inspired by: Oswald Chambers’ question for January 12.
I used to think that I loved you. I enjoyed reading your Word, I loved leading worship and being a missionary. Then one day you got my attention, and for a little while I was utterly devastated. I was so hurt and bitter towards you. I felt you had turned your back and betrayed me. You had taken away my joy and like a child, I was disappointed!
Oh how shallow I was, how full of pride. I was so stubborn, that it took you a long time to get my attention. I could not hear your still small voice above my screams. I was broken and of no use. My emotions and spirit were crushed and my health was soon to follow. I lay in bed numb to the emotional pain. Depression closed in around me. The only hope I found was the fact that I still talked to you. Mostly I just asked you, “Why?”But the mere fact that I asked, let me know that I still believed in You. And that gave me comfort. 
Slowly, Your light began to return to my heart. You showed me things that I did not know about myself, things that I had not wanted to know about myself. Then you helped me let go of them. It was a slow process….a difficult process. Finally You brought me to the point that I was thankful that You had gotten my attention. Thankful that You had answered my prayer. I know you remember that prayer….the one where I asked you to do”whatever it takes” to make me like you. I remembered one day and my jaw dropped open. I remembered that before “You got my attention”, I had actually uttered that prayer. (Boy, I’ll think long and hard before praying ” that” prayer again.) Finally I realized that everything had happened for MY good, for MY benefit. You had taken me at my word. In fact it was You all along who had placed that prayer in my heart. I stood in awe!
Then something wonderful happened. I began to fall in love with YOU, and not just the idea of serving You.
This love was different from the first. It was deeper and not quite as one sided. You had given me insight which I did not possess before. And I knew beyond doubt, that I was not worthy… I am not worthy! Now, I stand in awe and am eternally grateful that you took the time to stop me in my tracks and get my attention. Like Robert Frost’s, Road Less Traveled, It has made all the difference.