Who Has the Prettiest Feathers?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

In our relationships a lot of us like to strut around and show who has the prettiest feathers. What I mean by this is:

  • When somebody tells you something you already know, how do you respond? Do you have to make sure it is known that you already know this, and that person is not giving you any new information?
  • If someone uses your idea, do you have to make sure it is widely known that it was your idea?
  • In a dispute, do you find yourself pushing your opinion, raising your voice, interrupting, and pressing your way until the other relents and gives in?
  • If someone doesn’t do things your way, and it bombs, do you have to make sure he or she knows your advice wasn’t followed?
  • When you do good things, especially for your wife around the house, do you have to make sure she knows you did it?
  • Do you have to instantly make a conversation about you when someone starts sharing things with you? In other words, that friend is sharing a trial he or she is facing, and you instantly switch or compare to what you are going through instead of really trying to understand the other person.

Aren’t those feathers pretty?

We are not roosters or peacocks…God expects us to have a spirit of humility that was shown wonderfully in the person of Jesus Christ. If anyone could have walked around and strutted, it would have been Jesus, but He counted others as more significant to Himself.

Just a reminder that it ain’t about us.

Try restraining that urge to say, “I already know that.” See how it works. Do good deeds and don’t say anything about them (see Matthew 6). If someone uses your idea, bite your tongue and say a prayer in your head of giving glory to God (hopefully it was a good idea that you shared!). Let’s not try so hard to break our elbows patting ourselves on the back!

Getting the cake out of the oven

A little while back, I wrote about extroverts, and I forgot to follow up about the introverts. They are not off the hook! There are those who say too much, and there are others who do not say enough. The introverts need to remember that Solomon said there is “a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3).

When Joseph and I met with a career counselor a couple of years back, he had Joseph go through a personality assessment. For kicks, I went through it too. No surprise, Joseph was slightly on the introvert side, and I was fully on the extrovert side with an “extra” vert on it.

Here is the quick word picture that the career coach shared with us. The extrovert gives you all the ingredients to the cake and expects you to make it, while the introvert presents you with a completed cake. We extroverts talk to think, so we spew out a lot of ideas that are all over the board as we are trying to think things through. This is a nightmare to the introvert.

On the other hand, the introvert is so silent sometimes that it drives the extrovert crazy because we are thriving on an exchange of ideas. And here is the point that the career coach made about introverts:

Sometimes you have to get the cake out of the oven! The introvert needs to be given time to get all those ingredients together for the cake, but there is a reasonable expectation in a relationship for that introvert to sit down and communicate those ideas. And the extrovert has to be committed to actually listen and absorb without butting in and answering every statement along the way.

I remember another example in Columbus, Ohio when we were working with the West Broad congregation. A brother there named John was the same age as me. He had the engineering mindset, and you could see him in a Bible class with his wheels just turning and thinking. Near the end of class, he would offer a comment (not 10 or 15 comments, just one). That comment would just blow us away, it was full of depth and understanding. One time were were driving together and I said something about it, and he responded kindly, “I’m not like you, Aaron, I don’t have to say everything to comes to mind.” Well, ouch, he was right, but that truly paints the difference between the extrovert and introvert. Sometimes the extrovert needs to be quiet and allow time for the introvert to get the opportunity and courage to speak. Those introverts have a lot of great ideas to share, and they need to share them!

This seems to be a pattern in my relationships, because it makes me remember another example of when I was at Purdue. A fellow college student, Phil, who went to church with me was an introvert as well. We were walking on campus one time, and I said to him, “Phil, I wish I could be more like you and not talk so much.” Phil responded, “I wish I could be like you and talk more!”

Amen. We all have different personalities, strengths, and blessings, and we help round each other out. We learn from each other. I may help you to talk more, and you may help me (with a lot of patience) to talk less.

So, introverts, get the cake out of the oven. We need you to speak.

 

Thinking Out Loud

Today, I’m talking to the extroverts, those who talk to think. Yes, I fully fit in that category and that is definitely my personality. All of my ideas and thoughts, good, bad and ugly, all come out when I’m thinking about things. But man, it really gets me in trouble.

When you are an extrovert and you talk to think, and you are talking to an introvert who thinks to talk, it can be a toxic combination. You probably know what I’m talking about. The extrovert, in rapid procession, spews out fifteen ideas and possibilities and variations to the introvert who is still thinking about the first idea. That’s a formula for a fight if I ever saw one.

  1. Not every idea has to be vocalized. Look below and meditate upon these passages from Scripture that repeatedly advise us to restrain and limit our words.
  2. Sometimes your ideas, variations and suggestions while innocently offered, can make someone feel guilty or inadequate for the suggestion he or she made. A person comes up with an idea, and you rapid fire a bunch of other things they could add or do or change, and it can really frustrate him or her.
  3. Take time to think more and pray more. Nehemiah is a great example to me in that he took “serious thought” before he responded to something. I really need that more in my life (Nehemiah 5:6-7).

Maybe next week, I’ll pick on the introverts. Gotta be balanced.

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
(Proverbs 17:27-28)

Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!
(Job 13:5)

For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.
(Ecclesiastes 5:3)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
(Proverbs 10:19)

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness. A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?
(Ecclesiastes 10:12-14)

Be swift to hear slow to speak (James 1:19).

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
(James 1:19)

A Rat Wall

As many of you know we are in the process of building a new barn. The barn is a pole-barn structure. According to our township ordinance, we have to dig and pour a concrete “rat wall.” This is a 4 inch thick by 24 in deep concrete barrier that goes underground from post to post. As the name suggests, it’s intended purpose is to keep varmints and rodents from burrowing underground into the barn. Our concrete guy says its pointless and it just makes him more money, but we have to do it.

It was a lot of work, too, to dig that rat wall. Anna gathered the nephews, nieces and friends, and they worked hard for a whole day digging that trench for the rat wall. We have a lot of clay to dig through, so it can really get exhausting doing all that digging.

But it got me to thinking. The concept of creating a barrier that keeps bad critters from coming in is certainly a good idea, at least in theory. Our 5 barn cats are probably the best “rat wall” we have, though.

In our marriages, we need to think of the barrier that must be created to help keep the Devil’s varmints from invading and destroying our space. The rat wall will take a lot of hard work, and we have to dig deep and sometimes it is exhausting to go through the effort. In the end, however, it’s worth all the hard work.

In order to put a good barrier down to critter proof your marriage from Satan’s rats, here are a few things we need in that rat wall.

We need honesty and openness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16)

We need love.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:14-15)

We need forgiveness and freedom from bitterness.

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:19)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32)

Men, are you willing to dig deep with your wives and create an open and honest environment with them? Are you willing to pour that barrier of love that will protect against the biting and devouring rats of sarcasm, cynicism and cheap shots? Don’t we all need a good foundation of forgiveness and love to keep our hearts from becoming bitter from past hurts?

I may not be convinced that a rat wall is needed in a barn, but I certainly know we need to dig down a create a solid barrier in our marriages to shelter our precious and sacred relationship from the Devil’s critters.

Be nice

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

I like what Albert Barnes said about “being kind” from this verse.

Christianity produces true courteousness, or politeness. It does not make one rough, crabby, or sour; nor does it dispose its followers to violate the proper rules of social contact.

Being a Christian should produce a polite spirit. As Barnes said, we should not become rough, crabby or sour. But that happens, doesn’t it, men? We get into the busy-ness of life and things keep piling on, and sometimes we get cranky with those we love the most.

That’s when we may hear something from those wonderful wives of ours…something like, “Be nice.”

Guys, don’t forget to be nice. Even in all the crazy twists and turns of life, saying nice and kind things to your family members is not only helpful for having peace and harmony, it is what God expects of us. Being too tired or “stressed” to be nice is not a good excuse.

Can you imagine if God barked at us like we sometimes snap at others? Yikes, we couldn’t survive that. But God is at His core a kind being. So, just like at the gym, it’s time to work on your core.

It helps sometimes to stop, breathe a little bit, say a prayer for God to help you to chill out, and look at your wife and kids and just smile.

Be nice.

The Silent Treatment

Do you know about “the silent treatment”? I’m sure you do. We have either been on the giving or receiving end of this one, or both. There are a lot of ways we can give the silent treatment in our relationships. One is simply turning a cold shoulder and refusing to talk to the other person until they “learn” the lesson we want them to learn. How well does that work?

Other ways we can show the silent treatment is by avoiding direct confrontation, but instead we use sarcastic jabs or disgusted looks to make our point. Or we can talk in broad generalities of how “everybody” does something or “we” need to change this, when it really isn’t everybody. You are just hoping that your broad sweeping statement will hit the person you think needs to hear it.

Regardless, the silent treatment just isn’t going to lead to effective communication and restored relationships, is it?

Let’s take a lesson today from the life of David, specifically in regards to his relationship with his sons, Amnon and Absalom (2 Samuel 13-14).

Absalom had his brother, Amnon, murdered, because Amnon raped their sister Tamar. Absalom had every right to be angry, but went about it the wrong way. David was angry, too, but did not address Amnon’s sin head on; instead David went silent (2 Samuel 13:21).

Absalom also went “silent” for two years before he had Amnon murdered, for the Bible says here that:

And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar. And it came to pass, after two full years… (2 Samuel 13:22-23).

Two years passed. Nothing. No words, either good nor bad. Did that silent treatment help this relationship? Was Amnon’s sin/crime dealt with properly? Did it heal and restore the hurt? No, all it did was fuel Absalom’s hatred and his scheming commenced as to how he would payback Amnon for raping Tamar.

After Amnon was murdered, Absalom fled. David was angry and sad, but again, David went silent. He did nothing. Notice the Scripture. 5 years passed before a word ever was spoken between David and Absalom.

But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And King David longed to go to Absalom. For he had been comforted concerning Amnon, because he was dead (2 Samuel 13:37-39). 

So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, “Let him return to his own house, but do not let him see my face.” So Absalom returned to his own house, but did not see the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:23-24).

And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, but did not see the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:28).

This may be an extreme example, but I believe the Holy Spirit gives us a great illustration of how the “silent treatment” can completely blow up a family and destroy relationships.

Let’s take some time today to reflect upon this in our relationships. Are we the type to give the silent treatment? Do we understand how hurtful this is to those we love when we behave this way? If so, how will we begin to change this, and directly deal with relationship problems head on with love and tenderness? Avoiding confrontation and running away from problems will never bring healthy and restored relationships.

One book you could read, along with the Bible (Proverbs, Sermon on the Mount, James, etc.) is the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. We are reading this right now at home, and it is proving very helpful to us.

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
(Matthew 18:15)

But Only In Expressing His Opinion

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).

Solomon says a lot about fools in Proverbs, of course he says a lot about wise people as well in contrast to the fool. What is a fool in the Biblical sense? You might want to search the book of Proverbs for that word and see all Solomon has to say about it. If you boil it down to the essentials, it comes down to this: a fool does not listen to anyone but himself.

The above proverb teaches us that a fool’s delight is not in understanding wisdom or receiving instruction. He only wants to tell you what he thinks.

It is just another reminder that a big part of communication is listening. A huge component of learning is listening. But if I’m always talking, and I really love the sound of my own voice, how can I learn? How can I effectively communicate when I’m the only one talking?

My daughter Lindsay calls this a “versation,” not a “con-versation.” She’s right on the money about that.

Do you notice how some folks just dominate a conversation? They just don’t know when to take a breath and let someone else say something. For some reason, they don’t recognize social cues to see that someone else is trying to talk. A person may be done listening a long time ago, but do I recognize that, or do I just keep prattling on? We may be perfectly comfortable in teacher mode, but are we just as comfortable in “student” mode? Do we assume that we have the right approach and answers to each situation and that others are indebted to hear us talk about it?

It’s not that we want to call ourselves or others fools, but it would be good to take a cue from the proverb here and recognize that maybe we talk too much and listen far too little. And when we behave that way, we lack a true heart and desire for understanding. We won’t understand other people, because we really aren’t interested in it, and we won’t understand God’s truth, because we really are only in love with our opinions.

Ask more questions to engage others in conversation.

Be willing to let someone speak freely even if he or she has a different opinion or approach than you do.

Commit to hearing someone else’s story instead of being in such a hurry to tell your own.

Devote yourself to prayer for the Lord to give you courage and understanding to close your mouth and open your ears.

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.