Jump Start # 2074
Proverbs 18:13 “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
The practical and useful wisdom found within Proverbs is not only right, but it can sure keep us out of a lot of trouble. Our verse today is just a sampling of that principle.
Giving an answer before he hears…James tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Similar thought. The one who does this often says the wrong things. It backfires on him and what he thought was an answer now has become a problem, his problem.
Parents can do this. They hear just enough of their teens story that they know the answer and away they go. Often, had they heard the entire story, they would have said something else.
Brethren can do this to one another. A few words into a conversation and the other person is telling the person what he needs to do. It’s not what he needs to do. Had he listened he would have seen that.
Why do we do that?
First, we assume to know what we don’t know. “I know what you’re thinking,” is nothing more than a guessing game. No one knows the spirit within a person except that person, is what Paul told the Corinthians. Even spouses can get into this. They can finish each other’s sentences, know what the other would order at a restaurant and from that, give an answer before he hears.
Second, we hear certain key words, and that immediately sends us into the point– counter point mode. A teen begins a story about a friend who was drinking alcohol…the parent hears that word and shuts down all listening. Drinking. A friend. The assumption is that your teen was around drinking. Worse, your teen may have tried alcohol. The missiles are loaded and ready to launch. The parent is ready to cut off all communication with this “friend.” The parent is thinking counseling, grounding, and maybe we ought to switch schools. But none of that is necessary. Your teen wasn’t around the drinking. Your teen was the one who got his friend to stop drinking. From that they had a Biblical conversation about what God wants from us. The teen was ready to tell you that his friend is wanting to come to church on Sunday. You missed all that because all you heard was “a friend was drinking.”
There are a lot of key words that sends us red flags and shuts down communication. It’s like at the airport. If you want to miss your flight, spend hours being interrogated and possibly get a ride down to the police station, just stand in the security line and talk about bombs. That’s an immediate red flag.
Divorce is one of those key words. Quitting is another. Those words can send people in orbit without knowing what the story is all about.
Third, eavesdropping will certainly do that. Some folks can’t talk on their cell phones without everyone in the next county hearing what they say. They feel compelled to talk so loud that others join in the conversation who were not invited in. We can hear bits and pieces and we can assume the worse. Judgmental minds always think the worse. Some just feel it’s their right to join in on every conversation, whether they are included or not. They make it their business. “I heard you say…” and off they go with their conclusions and advice and ‘here’s what you need to do.’
Fourth, some just always think the worst. No matter what it is, they dwell in the land of negative. Things are always bad, even when they are good. Nothing is ever right. And this darkness spells over into conversations. They are always ready with gloom and doom. Things can always get worse, just ask them. Giving an answer before they hear is just natural for some. It doesn’t matter what you are going to say, it won’t be good. It won’t work. It won’t help. So, they interrupt or worse, don’t even hear what you say. Everything is painted black. There is no hope. All is lost.
Fifth, it shouldn’t take too much of this to realize the folly and shame that we have put upon ourselves for not listening. We were ready to fix things that we not our business. We were ready to fix things that cannot be fixed. We were ready to give an answer rather than engage in a conversation. Speaking out of turn and making a mess of things ought to be all it takes to keep one from doing this again and again. This problem of speaking before we hear, is an old problem. Proverbs is dealing with this. James, centuries later, writes about this. And, here we are, still more centuries later, still addressing this. Some things never seem to change. Some folks never seem to learn.
So, what can we do. First, don’t rush to solve everyone’s problems. Listen. Some people just need a listening hear. They are surrounded with people who are telling them what to do all day long. They need to vent. They need sympathy. They need compassion.
Second, think before you speak. Put yourself in the person’s shoes. What would you want to hear? Think it out.
Third, say a quick prayer. This can help the situation. It can help you to remember to listen and think. It can help you to measure your words and kindness and love. It can help the other person to receive what you say.
Fourth, not everything needs our answer. Sometimes it just works well to keep our opinions to ourselves. That’s hard for most of us. We feel that we have to say something. We have to state our opinion. I was listening to two guys yesterday go at it about American politics. One liked the direction we were going and the other didn’t. Round and round they were going. There wasn’t much listening taking place. Most of what they were saying was beyond them. Neither was in the position to do what they were saying needed to be done. Round and round this continued. Finally, I think one had to catch his breath, it was then they tried to invite me into that messy discussion. They asked me what I thought and I said, “I just want to go mow my yard.” Which I did. Not everything needs our voice. We don’t have to have an opinion about every subject. We don’t have to jump into every conversation. Solomon said, ‘there’s a time to speak and a time to be silent.’ Finding that silent time is hard for many of us.
Giving an answer before you hear is folly and brings shame. Wish I remembered that in the past. I sure could have used that. How about you?