A fool has no delight in understanding but only in expressing his own heart.
Toni, A Veritas Academy receptionist, has a way of communicating encouragement by her words and actions. Regardless of her workload, or what has transpired in her day, she looks for ways to be uplifting. She demonstrates that she values others- never sending a silent message of indifference. I love that about Toni and want to be more like her.
What we communicate to others has profound influence. Last week, I attended an information meeting at a nationally acclaimed university and left with a negative mindset about the institution, formed largely by what the presenter said and how she said it. Regardless of how accurate her presentation was, it influenced my belief about the institution.
Imagine how impressionable the hearts and minds of our children are, who are in the process of developing their thoughts and figuring out their beliefs. What they hear serves to shape their thoughts. What they think eventually becomes their beliefs, which form their personal reality. No wonder the scripture is full of warnings about our tongue.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. James 3: 6
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4: 29
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4: 6
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of fools pour out folly. Proverbs 15: 1-2
He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and same to him. Proverbs 18:13
The more I consider the topic of personal communication, the more I realize its significance. Words are not the only way we communicate however. The tone of our voice sends messages as well. How we say what we say rises up from within, revealing the state of our heart: anger, impatience and disappointment are easily discerned in our nonverbal communications.
So is indifference.
Indifference is subtle, easily overlooked and deeply hurtful because indifference at its core communicates unconcern. Indifference is communicated when we are unresponsive and fail to show interest in others. Indifference is passiveness toward others. Nothing about God’s love is passive or indifferent however.
We communicate indifference when we give partial attention to others. When the cell phone in our hand takes precedence over the people around us, we communicate indifference. When we interrupt, we communicate indifference.
Do we really hear what others are saying to us or do we treat their conversations as sidebars to other more “significant” activities in our lives? Are we active listeners or do we pretend to listen while forming our own thoughts and rehearsing our intended responses? Kids today need to see us modeling attentiveness to others by way of single focused attentiveness in face to face conversations. Kids need times when they are your sole focus as well as times when they allow you to focus solely on tasks and on others.
What differences would we see if endeavored to be more like Toni, practicing the affirmation of others over striving to affirm ourselves in our conversations? I believe the outcome would be a pleasant fragrance not only in the lives of those we encourage but also within our own souls.
I observe many children today who are interruption machines demanding incessantly that they be heard. Perhaps it is an indicator of our distracted life styles which model one interruption after another and they are merely fitting into a pattern. We need to be more intentional in teaching kids how to respectfully get our attention when necessary as well as how to respectfully wait when it is not their turn. Are you in the habit of allowing your little ones to interrupt? All too often their habit of interrupting works because eventually the adult gives in to stop the turbo noise!