The art of being slow to speak

We live in an instant world. We can shop instantly on our computers (phones) and get overnight shipping. We can instantly find the news or the score or the name of the guy who played the lead in that movie by whipping out our phone and asking Siri or Google or whoever your favorite encyclopedia is these days. And we can instantly publish our opinion as soon as we think of it. 

We also live in a world of excess information. An enormous amount of books are published each month. Hundreds of blog posts are published daily, with many of the big national blogs publishing several each day. Run a search on any of the latest headlines, whether a news item for the general public or one that’s news only in evangelical circles and you will find article after article, post after post that has been written about it. Even if it only became news two hours ago. 

Information. Instantly.

This culture of instant and abundant information leads to a false urgency for a writer. We are full of opinions, naturally. We have a gift or a knack or maybe just a habit of expressing our opinions in words. So when we see how many articles and posts get cranked out daily, and how fast the news changes, we feel this stress to throw our words into the mix before the moment passes by and we get left behind. The never ending stream of new posts on the sites that we follow creates the idea that we also have to publish a never ending stream on our own site. And if we write for one of these larger sites as well, it can create the idea that we must increase the frequency of the posts we send in for review and publishing. After all, we have to keep up.

What this urgency leads to, if we aren’t careful, is disobedience of the caution in James to be slow to speak. I shudder to think how many blog posts and FB statuses I have written as a reaction without giving my emotions time to calm down. I also cringe when I think about posts I’ve written in the middle of a trial, before God had worked that trial out in me and before I had really learned anything that He wanted me to learn. When we give in to the mentality that being able to make our thoughts public instantly means that we should make our thoughts public instantly, we will speak too soon. And when we speak too soon, the likelihood of sinning with our words increases exponentially, not to mention the fact that it takes time for us to learn what God is teaching us in a given situation, and speaking too soon results in commentary that is incomplete..

I say “we” instead of “I” because I have read enough articles by writers giving advice to would-be writers to know that I am not alone in feeling this urgency. Several times, they have written about people asking them how to get in on one of the national blog teams, or how to get their name noticed or increase traffic on their blog or get their book published. I always read these posts very carefully because I’m keenly interested in their answers, being a writer myself who has dreams of having a published book someday. Sometimes, their advice makes me roll my eyes. Sometimes it seems counter to what I see in their own lives. Sometimes their advice is frustrating because waiting for God to open doors seems to translate as: There’s no way anything will happen without me pushing it, so I guess nothing will ever happen. (Confession: I believe that we should not push doors open but let God open them. It’s just sometimes frustrating to wait, when my flesh and most of the people around me are advising me to knock those doors down myself. It’s that whole all-too-frequent pattern of failing to believe God’s plan could be better than mine, which is a sin issue on my part, not poor advice on their part.)

However, this morning, I read a post that was fresh air to my soul. It was so refreshing to read words of encouragement to stay out of the race. To be faithful in the immediate jobs God has given me without feeling frantic about what He may or may not give me in the future.  To write about what’s truly working itself out in my heart, about reflections on life in general, instead of feeling the need to respond to the current headlines.  To refuse to cave to the pressure to manufacture posts before they’ve simmered and developed, just to keep up with some manufactured standard. To be content with where I am, even if God never takes me anywhere else. My heart needs these reminders. 

I think maybe mine isn’t the only one who does. If you are a would-be writer or speaker or long for a platform of any kind, I challenge you to rest with me in the current situation. Maybe God has more for us. Maybe He doesn’t. I long for my heart to be fully ok with that. Some days, by His grace, it is. Other days, I feel urgent and frantic again. Just being honest. I challenge you to preach the truth to yourself, that the race is actually a mirage. It isn’t real. There is no pressure to join in the waves of people fighting to be known. There is, as it turns out, no urgency. Rest. Let your words be few. Be slower to speak. Let the thoughts simmer unti they are well-flavored. Let them reduce down until they are pure, and all the words that wouldn’t honor God or simply wouldn’t be helpful have burned away. I feel hypocritical typing this, because, as I confessed above, this hasn’t always been my practice. But this is me preaching truth to myself. 

And if you are not dreaming of a public platform of any kind, don’t disregard this post thinking it’s not for you. If you have a social media account, you have the same access to immediate sharing of opinions. Be careful what you post. Think it through. Don’t use it for reactions, and especially don’t use it to rant. Be slow to speak. These are cautions I need, and these are cautions most of us need.

The “post” and “share” and “send” buttons are so accessible, so easy to click. Let’s all seek to be a little slower to click them. 

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