We all do it. I don’t care who you are, at some point of almost any day or week you’ll make a statement, that if you thought about thoroughly, you’d realize was glaringly obvious. You know, something insanely intelligent like announcing to Paul Bunyan, “Gee, you’re tall and your ox is blue!”
“No! Ya think?”
Most of the time, our stating the obvious is more subtle. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Subtle obviousness. But, it’s true. We do it all the time, and sometimes, I wonder why.
For example, a mother buries her child and some rocket scientist comes along and says, “It’ll get easier as time goes on,” or worse, “The Lord giveth…” Yeah. She knows that. She didn’t want Him to take away just yet. Notice her driver’s license. The name on it isn’t Job now is it? Must you remind her of her loss as you seek to console or encourage her? Can you not simply say, “I’m sorry”?
What about the young wife struggling to stay in her budget? She mentions her struggles, either in passing or hoping for some affirmation- some kind of encouragement, and instead hears, “Well at least you don’t have to worry about this or that. Be grateful that the Lord provides.”
Well, of course she’s grateful. Of course she’s thankful that she doesn’t have to deal with an autistic child, a mountain of debt, or an aging parent with Alzheimer’s. Instead of giving a tit-for-tat “well it could be worse” scenario, why not try a little old fashioned empathy or sympathy?
“Oh that would be difficult. I will definitely keep you in my prayers. I’ll pray for some kind of encouragement this week. You’re doing a great job and I’m really proud of you.” Would it kill us to say this? This is also true. Truth doesn’t only come in the negative. Speaking the “truth in love” (and I won’t even go into the constant misinterpretation of that scripture) doesn’t have to mean speaking only those truths which serve to criticize or put more weight on an already overburdened soul.
If you’re talking to a mother who has a dozen doctor visits this week with her various children, do her a favor. Don’t tell her to be grateful that she has insurance. Tell her you’ll pray for short waits, little traffic, and wisdom for those doctors.
Rebuke, wrapped in the mantle of encouragement, is no more a blessing to the recipient than a backhanded compliment. “Gee, that dress makes you look fifty pounds lighter. You should wear more of those.”
Oh gee. Thanks. I feel much better. Maybe I should put one on each leg too while I’m at it. Can you put one over your head? Maybe it’ll shrink your head while it’s at it.
I think it is time for Americans to start thinking before we speak again. I’ll go further and say that I think it is time for American CHRISTIANS to start thinking before we speak. If your encouragement will do more to discourage than encourage, it might just be best to be silent.
Silence truly is golden sometimes.