I talk a lot. Always have. In grade school, I was constantly shushed by my teachers; my report cards would come home and below the chart depicting my [good] grades would be a note penned from my teacher, "Rebecca is a bright student. Her grades are wonderful. She just talks too much in class." I have to admit that as an adult, I am quite the talker. I talk out of turn. I talk a long time. I talk a lot. I realize this has its faults and yet, I am still having a hard time with just shutting up.
Especially when it comes to God's truth.
So I have found that depending on who I am talking to, this can be a bad thing. I love sharing exciting tidbits of information about God's truth in regards to my own life; like how it affected me in my past, how it turned my life around, how it brought me deeper into my Catholic faith, or even now how His word inspires and uplifts me when I'm having a bad day. And sometimes - a lot of the time - I am met with A) no response at all or B) defensiveness. I'm not sure what the silence is about. I still haven't figured that one out. Did I actually render someone speechless? Was it God's holy word that just brought so much peace to their heart, it made them be quiet..indefinitely? Or something else? Of course, my sensitive mind could think of a million negative reasons but I try not to go there. That's a bad place- one I like to avoid as much as possible.
Then there is the defensiveness. I am not sure I get that. I am only left to assume that it's really a matter of the heart for the other person. Maybe they don't feel the same way I do. Maybe they aren't following God's truth. Maybe my intense conviction that X is the right way for me to live/think (because it's God's truth) makes other people feel convicted by me because they don't live/think that way. Maybe they just feel convicted in general and want to blame me, a la "kill the messenger" style. Maybe they're intimidated by my ability - however faltering it is at times - to follow God's truth and be sustained by it.
I was once told that my talking about these things lets people know where they stand "with me," but I'm not sure I understand exactly what that means. If I'm talking about myself or if I'm sharing God's truth with someone else, how does that make others know where they stand with me? Are they assuming that because I live this certain way or because I am proclaiming God's truth (because that's what He calls Christians to do), that they are any less of a person in my eyes? Or that I don't respect them? Or that I don't love them? God, I hope not! I try to love and respect everyone in my life regardless of what they do or don't believe or how they live their life. Not only that, but I can humbly say that it really doesn't matter what I think. What matters is what God thinks. People should be more worried about that.
In any case, I have a Jewish friend, a Buddhist friend, and several atheist friends. I have Christian friends who believe that pre-marital sex is okay. I have friends - Christian and non-Christian alike - who believe abortion is okay. Or artificial birth control. I am acquainted with several homosexuals. I am Catholic yet most of my friends are not. I have friends and family who do not see eye-to-eye with me on so many different important issues. And I love and pray for them all, and for our relationships. We can all have many respectful conversations about important matters without worrying about whether or not the other person is judging them. It's not about judgment at all. At least not on my end.
Granted, I'm not perfect and loving even my husband is often very hard, let alone someone who challenges every single aspect of my life. But the point is that I kind of have a hard time being quiet...not necessarily about life, but about LIFE, and it has seemed to bite me in the butt more than it has blessed me. My sister was telling me how she, too, has a hard time being quiet but that her wise husband said to her one evening that sometimes it's just better not to say anything at all. BOY IS THAT HARD! One of my friends and I had a discussion about this very thing because we know that we are definitely called as Christians to learn, pray about and share God's word and His truth with others, especially non-Christians. It is our charge to bring others to Him. And yet, so many efforts are misconstrued, taken the wrong way, turned around, taken as judgment, spit on, rejected, etc, etc. So then we worry; are we at all responsible for this person come judgment day because they refused to acknowledge these truths in their life? Could we have done more? Was there something else that could have been said? What about accountability?
What I find very interesting is the word "judgment." That word is thrown around these days like no body's business. And that's the point. People say it is no body's business what they do and others should just leave them alone. To some extent, this is true. But if one person does wrong, they usually aren't just affecting themselves, they are affecting so many other people with their actions. Not only that but often, if someone says "this is the right way because God says so" to another, that doesn't mean they are judging that person; they are merely sharing what God's truth is. Of course, it has to be relayed in a loving manner. But even that is misconstrued by super defensive people. I could call my friend up and excitedly tell her I just found this incredibly uplifting verse in Proverbs and how it relates to my wanting to be a better wife, and because of her own guilty feelings and defensiveness, she might automatically assume I am trying to tell her that she isn't a good wife and she should be like me and read Proverbs more, and then change. Um...what?? Similar scenarios have actually happened to me and I really have a hard time with that.
I think what makes it incredibly personal for me is that often, a person hasn't taken the time to really get to know me, to know my heart, and they automatically assume (because of their own issues or experiences with others) that my motive is negative, judgmental, manipulative, or whathaveyou. The truth is, while I'm not perfect and I do falter and fail and give in to the weakness of my flesh, I do strive toward a holy lifestyle, to be a clean and open vessel for God to dwell in and use to do His work. My soul thirsts for Him. So for someone to just automatically assume the worst of me and my intentions without making the effort to get to know me - and I mean really know me, not just assume they do - it still hurts. Even though I try to remember that it's really their issue, not mine.
It is often better to just not say anything at all. But how do you choose? When do you decide you should just shut your mouth and not say a word, without it affecting your call to share God's truth? My friend Colleen told me today that often, actions are better than words. So I am trying to use that fact as motivation to pray more, talk less, and let the Holy Spirit guide me when I'm dealing with these situations or trying to decide if I should share tidbits of my own life out of excitement or example of how it affects me. Oh it is a fine line, isn't it? And yet, I know deep in my heart that while I am called to bring others to Christ, this does not always mean with my words and hopefully one of these days I really can get to that point of letting go of my need to talk about it, and just let my actions speak instead. I think that would be the best way to love others and bring them to Christ. Not in tongue, but in action.
"...let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:18