I once visited a Church on Sabbath where I had the privilege to preach as a guest speaker. It was a nice, moderate SDA Church, the kind that is closer to my ideal Church: it is a house of prayer for every kind of believer, without (unofficial) demands for how people should talk, walk, breathe, sit, shake-hands, eat or clothe themselves. They have somehow managed to leave their cultural biases at their home, where it belongs, in order to fully focus on Gods Word instead of outward appearances of each other. I was almost ready to call them the perfect, moderate and well-balanced Church until I spoke to three board members right after the service.
That conversation bushed my bubble, as I was told that all of what I’ve seen is not how things are outside of church services. I asked: ‘what do you mean?’ ‘Oh, well, we’re nice on Sabbath, but all other days things go pretty rough as a few of our leaders say things the way they are.’ Again I asked: ‘what do you mean, they way things are?’ ‘Well, direct, just whatever comes to mind, they just say it.’
It didn’t take long for me to realize two things: 1. They confuse ‘directness’ with having a loose tongue; 2. They too have fallen for the ‘I am a direct person, so I am a strong person’ fallacy.
For some strange reason, people think that saying whatever comes to mind is something of strength, a virtue that makes someone worth listening to and a great leader.
In fact, I recognise a good package deal of weaknesses almost every time somebody tells me proudly that he or she is ‘direct.’ What I hear is a set of shortcomings:
- A lack of control over his or her emotions.
- A lack of control over his or her tongue
- A lack of listening (between the lines) competences
- A lack of the ability to know when to keep silent
- A lack of the ability to see/put things in (a broader) perspective
- A lack of the ability to put him or herself in the other person’s shoes (a Dutch proverb).
- A lack of patience to allow the other person the space and time to grow/develop
- A lack of analytical capabilities where one reconsiders his or her own stance.
And many, many more shortcomings. Too often being ‘direct’ is considered a strength, while in fact it is really a(n) (enormous) sign of severe weakness.
I can cite a lot of Biblical passages (for example: James 1:26, Romans 3:13, Proverbs 11:9) that confirms my humble observation, but for the sake of the lenght of this blog, I end with a challenge for all believers: ‘tame your tongue! It’s not a sign of strength to be ‘direct.’
‘We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn’
EGW, The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892.