The instant a person opens their mouth to communicate they reveal everything from their uttermost desire to whether they have the means to achieve it. There is a host of clues which expose strength and weakness, of which even the speaker may be unaware, ranging from what and how someone speaks to what they choose to call themselves. All you have to do is listen.
People use ‘uh’ and ‘um’ to keep the attention of their listener in order to allow their brain to catch up with their mouth which suggests they are still figuring things out. Such a person is indecisive and unprepared and, because of this, neither possesses the wherewithal to achieve a goal nor the discipline to choose one. The words ‘like’ and ‘you know’ are often used incessantly by youth as if there were an award for the most words used to convey a thought. Such a person has no sense of economy.
The percentage of times a person says ‘yes’ as opposed to ‘no’ determines whether a person is easy to work with or confrontational. A person who says ‘yes’ will be more positive and open to ideas than their negative counterpart.
It is silence which implies consent while the spoken word ‘no’ is necessary to establish disapproval. It is no wonder trainees often seem confused when their masters impress their will. If silence rather than verbal affirmation is used to reinforce acceptable behavior, there will never be a clear model drawn. Even if someone is taught what is expected, without positive verbal affirmation, few will have the fuel to reach their destination. It is understandable why those under supervision view every word, inflection and gesture as a voice of disapproval. It is also not surprising those under subjection will test authority since the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are often negotiable.
Statements set up individuals for success or failure based on whether or not the person’s actions over time prove what they professed to be true. People who make claims without a time stamp lack accountability and are generally unreliable. Those who offer only one form of instruction are unyielding and more concerned about how they are perceived than whether or not their message is properly received.
Those who use words which mean the opposite of how they were intended is like a repairman who uses tools contrary to their design. Such a workman will often do damage along with the repair. The word cool, for example, which carries a negative connotation (i.e. indifferent, unfriendly), has in recent generations come to mean popular and appealing. More recently, the word bad, which no one would ever confuse with its counterpart good, is frequently used to denote the very opposite of its intended meaning. A person who uses words contrary to their meaning will be argumentative and inadvertently lead others in the wrong direction.
Matthew 12:35-37, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” It would appear speaking clearly and concisely and behaving consistently with what we have spoken will keep us out of trouble.
It is a precarious place one finds himself when he does not know the meaning of the words he uses. In this topsy-turvy world, for which we are responsible, what if everyone got it wrong? What if what people labeled good was not good at all? What if the rebellious use of the word bad, which was intended to mean good, backfired and meant precisely what it was intended to mean? In other words, since words have a distinct meaning and purpose which does not change despite their misuse, it may be the only time the word good is guaranteed to be used properly is when it is used derogatorily.
People verbalize their gratification when they say, “Good for them. Serves them right!” after someone falls into distress. Hardship fosters patience, strength and character, and is therefore good in spite of the ill intention. Therefore, the person who uses the condescending phrase, “Good for them,” is actually speaking prophetically into the life of the victim and condemning themselves by their own ill will. The person who falls will end up stronger and wiser than the person jeering from the sidelines. Perhaps this is why the Bible instructs us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). If one falls and another assists, both are strengthened.
We think winning the lottery is good in spite of the fact the winners end up weaker physically, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally from a work-free environment. We consider work bad in spite of the fact it is designed to keep us alert, healthy and unashamed. We think disease is bad, but, a disease, which is merely an assortment of symptoms, is the body’s way of saying something is wrong. We think rich foods and a sedentary lifestyle are good in spite of being the very things which cause the disease we find so unappealing. We think death, tragedy and discomfort are bad, in spite of their profound contribution to character development which points the wise in the direction of appreciation, purpose and, ultimately, God.
We do ourselves a disservice when we label something using our limited and meager perspective. In Acts 11:26, it states the word Christian was first used in Antioch to denote disciples. Since the followers of Jesus Christ did not name themselves, it is thought the word Christian, or ‘little Christ’, was meant as an insult. Naming something, therefore, even when the purpose is to demean, legitimizes the subject no matter how it may make them feel.
So, naming something gives it credence, and labeling something for the purpose of debasing it has the opposite affect. Therefore, it stands to reason, when a group names themselves for the purpose of validation, the reality will reflect the opposite of what the group professes themselves to be (e.g. gay, liberal, Planned Parenthood).
Jesus himself rejected the crowd’s attempt to label him when he asked, “Why do you call me good? None is good but the father.” If Jesus refused the moniker, why do so many of us try to claim it? When someone professes someone else to be good, they set them up for a fall. The only thing worse than following someone you perceive to be good is allowing others to follow you based on your laurels.
There is a time to speak. Acts 16:37, “But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.” Paul was a legitimate citizen of the Roman Empire which, by law, gave him certain rights. When a governing body abuses their office and the rights of citizens are violated, the accused should be awarded an opportunity to confront his accuser to voice a complaint. People who do not have legitimate rights and voice their opinion or use the injustice of one to leverage an agenda, diminish their own rights as well as the laws which protect them.
Matthew’s gospel mentions Jesus “held his peace” in chapter 26:63 when questioned by the High Priest. Held his peace was translated from the Greek word, siopao which means to remain silent; to be calm, not agitated, which implies more than silence. The phrase, held his peace, is used often and ranges from the Hebrew word, hares, to plot, plan; to be silent, to the Greek, phimoo, to muzzle, as it was used when Jesus confronted the man in the synagogue with the spirit of an unclean devil. Whether we choose to silence and control ourselves or allow ourselves to be muzzled, we limit exposing our foolishness.
Nearly every time Jesus’ disciples spoke they revealed something about their character which needed correction. If we knew how much foolishness was revealed each time we opened our mouths, we would spend more time holding our peace. Proverbs 10:19, In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin; but he that refraineth his lips is wise. Only someone who is silent will hear the difference between good and bad. Only the enlightened will see the good in the bad and the bad in what the world considers good.