Trustworthy Wounds

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Proverbs 26:20-28, 27:6Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.  As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.  The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; They go down to a man’s inmost parts.  Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.  A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.  If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.  (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 12:15-19The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.  (NIV 1984)

Learn to Argue – People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. (G.K. Chesterson)

The Art of “Arguing” – People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it [not behind their back – “words of a gossip are like choice morsels“], without brutalizing them or causing undue offense [“wounds from a friend can be trusted“]. But this confidence does not equate to arrogance, pigheadedness, threats, accusations or disrespect. They are humble enough to realize that they do not have a monopoly on the truth.

There are five distinct skills that can help us talk [argue] about even the most sensitive topics:

Share your facts – Facts are the least controversial way to begin a crucial conversation, because facts by their very nature are uncontroversial. Be careful to not “spin” the facts, embellish the facts or omit facts (“the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). This will derail a crucial conversation before it even gets started. “speak the truth (facts) in love.” Do not rub their nose in it. Facts are the most persuasive and the least insulting.  They form a foundation believability, that lays the groundwork for all delicate conversations. But make sure they are facts and not conclusions. That comes next.
Tell your side of the story – With the facts properly laid out, you can tell your side of the story. The conclusions you have drawn. If you have thought through the facts, your conclusions (story) should be viewed as reasonable, rational, decent and deserving of being considered.
Ask for others’ views – If done sincerely, this demonstrates humility. Be open to having your mind changed. If your aim is to be “right” and win the “fight” you are not being sincere.  If your aim is to determine what is right and walk in the light, you just might find that you were wrong and fighting the wrong battle.
Talk tentatively – Do not share the facts or tell your story in a dogmatic fashion. One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking to those holding opposing positions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. The more tentatively you speak, the more open people are to your story and conclusions. But you don’t need to be wimpy either. Strike a just right “Goldilocks” balance. Just because you back off on how you state your beliefs, does not mean you have to back off on your beliefs.
Encourage testing – At this point, you can argue as vigorously as you want for your point of view, provided you are just as vigorous at encouraging others to challenge or even disprove it. Remember, the truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue. It is okay to have strong opinions and vigorously defend them. Just remember that the other person is entitled to the same. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

If we S-T-A-T-E things this way, we improve the odds of having a favorable outcome.  Even if we do not win or change your mind, we can still agree to disagree and preserve the relationship.

My Musings – If the beliefs we hold are the truth, we want others to believe them too.  How we present our case can go a long ways toward convincing the other.  Done thoughtfully and caringly, even if we lose the “argument,” we are more likely to at least win respect and preserve the relationship.  And that respect, might eventually carry the day.  On the other hand, if done thoughtlessly and uncaringly, even if we win the “argument” respect and the relationship may be permanently damaged.

My Advice – Do not merely argue the truth, argue it in a thoughtful and caring way

Submissive Humility

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1 Peter 5:5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourself in humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We should never be too proud to learn from the age and experience of others. This includes those who may be younger than we are chronologically, but more mature than we are in the faith.

My Advice – You’ve learned much in school, but there is much also to be learned from those who are older and have more experience. Continue to learn now that you have graduated, and even later in life when you are the elder one with more experience.

Sound Patterns

2 Timothy 1:13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We need to pass teaching down to others that is solid, to keep the faith going.

My Advice – Hopefully you’ve found that the things of faith that your mother and I taught you over the years, whether by word or deed, were sound. Follow those teachings that were.

Godless Chatter, Opposing Ideas

1 Timothy 6:20-21Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from Godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – Unfortunately, a lot of the so-called wisdom of this world does cause a lot of people to turn away from the truth of the Scriptures.

My Advice – A lot of worldly philosophies that you heard in college are likely in opposition to what you know to be true from your Christian upbringing. Make sure these “beliefs” do not invade your thinking. Weigh them carefully against the Word and discard those that are in opposition.

Since Then

Colossians 3:1, 2 – Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Notice the order. If we set our hearts on the things above, our minds will surely follow. However, it is not always the case that if we set our minds on the things above our hearts will follow.

My Advice – Whenever you find yourself setting your mind on worldly principles, check out your heart. Is it still longing for the things of God?

Establish Every Matter

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2 Corinthians 13:1Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – One person can deceive, so we should not take action. Two or more can still conspire to deceive, so the matter still must be established. But the deceit among conspirators is more likely to unravel due to inconsistencies in their stories.

My Advice – Take no action and form no firm opinions based upon what only one person has told you. Wait for corroboration of at least one more witness or other evidence. You will be less likely to take actions that you will live to regret.

Innocent Awareness

1 Corinthians 14:20In regard to evil, be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Infants are innocent. Adults are aware.

My Advice – Evaluate situations and circumstances like an adult and be aware of the evil that they might entail. Keep your innocence. Do not get involved in the evil.