If you your lips would keep from slips,
Five things observe with care:
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak,
And how and when and where.
If you your ears would save from jeers,
These things keep meekly hid:
Myself and I, and mine and my,
And how I do and did.
– “Our Lips & Ears”, The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett
– Are you tired of engaging in dull, meaningless conversation?
– Would you like to communicate more effectively with others?
– Do you wish to glorify God with every discussion?
Then stay tuned! Today we will consider what it takes to be a conversationalist after God’s own heart. Colloquy (that is to say, conversation) that is constructive does not come naturally for most of us. Unfortunately, it is our natural tendency in our conversations to be inconsiderate and selfish – highly interested in ourselves, apathetic towards others, and irritated when the tables are turned. These traits of course do not make for a desirable companion!
As christians, we are to make the most of every opportunity in which to bring Christ to others. One of the most simple yet powerful ways to do so is through our colloquy. Since it is such a useful tool, we ought to know how to use it, and how to use it well. Colloquy is a learned skill…it must be practiced to perfection. Now we needn’t be apprehensive – we can know conversational success by looking to the scriptures for guidance. To be constructive, the colloquy we engage in with others must only adhere to a very simple pattern which can be found in James 1:19…
Come, let us consider the three vital qualities required for us to attain Constructive Colloquy.
1. Ears That Hear
To hear = to listen, to perceive.
“Let every man be swift to hear…”
To attain Constructive Colloquy, we must become women who listen.
Girls, if we don’t ever listen, we don’t ever learn…and if we don’t ever learn, we don’t ever grow. Listening is as essential to Christianity as water is to the human body. Listening brings life and growth. Without the quality of listening ears we could not believe, obey the gospel call, or follow God’s commands. Without listening we would know nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. Yet so often, our ears become lazy. When others speak, our minds can drift to other topics. We might think about what we’re doing later that day, or what we’re going to say next. This is where we must take our thoughts captive and block out all else except what the other person is saying.
There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Listening is more than simply being silent as the other person speaks. Listening involves intent focus. This can be difficult, because many times when we are not intently focused, it is because we are disinterested. What can we do…how can we change our hearts to be interested in others?
We need to understand the benefits that can come about as a result of listening. It is not enough to listen because it is the nice thing to do…what is going to motivate us to have listening ears is knowing what exactly happens when we listen…
- We gain knowledge. If we are having a conversation with someone who is outside the faith, it is important to comprehend his point of view. If we don’t have much knowledge about the outside world, our credibility with other people goes down in spades. Be aware and listen to what non-believers think and have to say about us. It can greatly help us to examine our own faith as well as know where they are at and what they need from us.
- We gain understanding. Perhaps we are talking to someone who is going through a difficult time or has gone astray in their faith. These people are in a fragile state and need to know that we care about them. Sometimes we all need someone who is willing to listen to our plight without fear that they will brush us off and judge us harshly. We need to learn to be that person that can be leaned upon in times of trouble. When we listen to a hurting individual, not only can it serve to soothe their hurt, but it can teach us values like kindness and compassion that we may otherwise be sorely lacking in.
- We gain wisdom. If we are having a conversation with other Christians, we ought to regard the wisdom that our brethren have to share as invaluable. It can be exciting to share new things we have learned from God’s word, but we need to be sure to keep silence at times and lend an ear to our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can learn from them. It is especially important to remember to listen even when a brother or sister rubs us the wrong way. Some people can be rude and abrasive, but that does not relinquish us from our duty to listen to them. We need to learn to focus more on the message than the messenger.
Big egos have little ears. – Robert Schuller
Consider the magnitude of this truth: God inclines His ear to us here on earth! Would we consider ourselves above Him?
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? – Psalm 94:9
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. – Psalm 34:15
The most important motivation for listening to others should be in following in the footsteps of our Lord. God regards those who listen as wise, but those who close their ears as fools.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. – Proverbs 1:5
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words. – Proverbs 23:9
Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts. – Zechariah 7:13
You might be thinking that listening is just not a skill you are gifted with. It may be that your personality is flighty and your mind quickly jumps from one topic to the next. Yet remember, constructive colloquy is learned…and anyone can become a great listener if they set their heart towards it. Consider that Jesus defied natural law, healing the eyes and ears of those who were physically blind and deaf. While we can not perform miraculous physical healings in this dispensation, we can defy the natural law of our worldly flesh in a spiritual way. If we are deaf spiritually, we can be healed if we will choose to walk in newness of life!
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. – Isaiah 35:5
Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. – Isaiah 42:18
Be encouraged friends…spiritual deafness is 100% curable.
Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. – Jeremiah 13:15
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. – Isaiah 55:3
2. Lips That Near
To near = To close in; to approach.
“Let every man be…slow to speak”
To attain Constructive Colloquy, we must become women who know when to be silent.
Talking uncontrollably is closely associated with poor listening skills, yet it is still very much a negative character trait of it’s very own. We can be great listeners, and still struggle with over-speaking at times.
If to talk to oneself when alone is folly, it must be doubly unwise to listen to oneself in the presence of others. – Baltasar Gracian (1647)
Talking too much often stems from pride. Subconsciously, perhaps we believe that we are so interesting and knowledgeable that we deserve to have the floor the majority of the time. How selfish! This certainly does not draw people to want to converse with us. Now sometimes we truly do have important thoughts to express…and when this is true, by all means SPEAK! Yet even then it is not good to completely overwhelm the other person, stretching their listening skills to the limits. Furthermore, there are many times in life when speaking at all is folly. These include…
- When we are given to complaints. One of the easiest times to speak is when in a sour mood. Isn’t this disgraceful? I have found that when I am unhappy, if I allow myself to give in to venting I might say ungrateful things I would not say if I had waited until I righted my perspective. Once complaining sets in, it continues in rapid snowball effect. We can always find something to be upset about, but on the flip side we can always find something to rejoice about. If we are in a mood to dwell on the former, it’s best to zip our lips.
- When we are given to gossip. While we may not categorize it as such, talking about others is a lust. It can stroke our ego when we put others down, and therefore we keep doing it to reach that peculiar high. Gossip can become such a part of our lives that we hardly recognize that we are gossiping. Yet we must nip this sinful habit in the bud…before we become unfruitful and unholy busybodies! It has been said that if we are not posing a solution for a problem, we should not be talking about it. Similarly, the band Coldplay posed this question in their hit song, “Clocks”: “Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?” What a powerful question that we should continually ask ourselves!
- When we are given to divulgence. For those who are extroverted, it might be a struggle to keep things inside that beg to be shared. Sharing information can be harmless at times, but other times can be very dangerous. Discretion is a valuable trait, especially in a woman who can be more apt to talk based on her feelings than what is logical. It is generally the wise thing to consult with your husband (or if unmarried, your father or another trusted adult) before sharing things that might be better left unsaid.
You have two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in those proportions – Chinese Proverb
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. – Proverbs 29:11
…a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. – Ecclesiastes 5:3b
If we are always talking, we mute out others and we mute out God. Furthermore, we can go so far as to sin with our mouth by complaining, gossiping, or divulging…and of course engaging in any foolish speech that is contrary to Christian values. When in doubt, mum’s the word!
Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. – Proverbs 21:23
Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. – Psalm 141:3
3. Spirits That Steer
To steer = To guide; to direct a course.
“Let every man…be slow to wrath.”
To attain Constructive Colloquy, we must become women who seek after peace.
Constructive Colloquy is all about finding that perfect balance in conversation. Nobody likes talking to a brick wall, nor do they like not being able to get a word in edgewise. Just enough listening and just enough speaking will keep anger and frustration at bay from both parties.
In the spirit of Galatians 5, it takes the fruit of the spirit to be a good conversationalist:
- Do you love the person talking to you enough to find joy in hearing their point of view?
- Might you exercise a little goodness and self control by holding your tongue at times?
- Would you forbear, having patience as you (attentively) wait your turn to talk?
- Will you allow kindness and gentleness to keep you from interrupting?
- These are the things that promote peace in a conversation.
Above all, let your conversation always point to Jesus. Colloquy not led by God’s spirit can hardly be called constructive. Rather it is crude, void of purpose, and even rooted in wickedness. Remove yourself from the presence of those who would refuse to see the light and only bring you down. This is not profitable for you or them, but merely a waste of precious time. Politely remove yourself and seek after that which will build up and edify.
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. – Proverbs 19:27
For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat. – Job 34:3
I hope that this lesson has helped you to examine the skills you currently possess as a conversationalist. I am constantly having to work on myself in this area, and I’m sure it is something we all struggle with at times. Let us talk to God about this and ask Him for wisdom. Remember, we must in every conversation bring ears that hear, lips that near, and spirits that steer. These are the qualities we must have to attain…Constructive Colloquy.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. – James 1:19
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another…Malachi 3:16a
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.