Reflections- The danger of over-communicating
By Roger Campbell,
author, broadcaster and columnist
and a pastor for 22 years.
The ability to communicate is one of God’s greatest gifts, enabling us to express the deep feelings of our hearts through words and songs. When we’re hurting, emotionally or physically, we can describe our pain to another person who may have just the right words to encourage us. When we’re up, we have the ability to lift others through words of compassion and understanding.
Love would be frustrated without a means of communication. Poets and pastors capitalize on this by using their pens and preaching to give love a voice, whether about matters romantic or religious. And a never ending volume of books and songs combine to keep these tender communications flowing.
Some over-communicate…especially in this day of so-called social networking.
“My talent is to speak my mind,” a woman once said to John Wesley, the father of the Methodist church. “God won’t object if you bury that talent,” Wesley replied.
Some things are better left unsaid, especially in the presence of those who are looking for some reason to doubt the reality of your faith. A watching world is far more likely to remember your lapse than your light.
When we over-communicate in criticizing others, we may actually be trying to turn attention away from our own faults. But Judge Harold Medina saw this common tendency another way, saying “Criticizing others is a dangerous thing, not so much because you may make mistakes about them but because you may be revealing the truth about yourself.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The human race is divided into two classes—those who go ahead and do something and those who sit still and ask why it wasn’t done another way. If you find someone has been criticizing you, don’t ever let it defeat you. If the criticism is untrue, disregard it. If it is unfair, keep from irritation. If it is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it.”
Silence stifles over-communicating.
Through the centuries, careless and cutting words have wounded hearers and brought regret to those who have spoken them. Churches have been divided, family ties broken and friendships torn asunder by unkind words harshly spoken.
As a young minister, I quickly saw the value of remaining silent when someone began talking about the faults of others. Knowing that even one word of agreement might cause me to be quoted wrongly about the charges being made, I determined to keep quiet or tactfully maneuver the conversation to another subject.
I found great help in keeping silent by memorizing a verse in the Psalms: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
The thought that God could dispatch a guard to shut my mouth at a time when I might have over-communicated was just what I needed to remain silent when tempted to express some negative opinion about another person.
There are times when silence really is golden, especially when harmony in your home or unity in your church is at stake if you over-communicate.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org