Eric Youngblood: The Devilish Thrill Of Speaking Our Minds?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - by Eric Youngblood

“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”

This is the perceptive observation of Ivan, the silverback gorilla, from his restrictive domicile at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade in The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

If we waste words, it’s no wonder, is it, that God stewards them well?

Essential Oil Words

God doesn’t discard his words to rot. He never accidentally drops them like cheerios in between the seats of the Sienna minivan. Instead, our reports are that “none of his words fall to the ground.” All his words work.

And God’s utterances, like all his questions in the Scriptures are never purely for his benefit. They are always for the advantage of the recipient. Even his most terrifying threats are meant to generate responsive, punishment-averting, turn-arounds!

Our words, too, we’re told, should be words of benefit. Concrete footer words that support the lives around us. Reliable steel beam words that folks can sturdily walk across. Essential oil words that hearers can inhale to heal their wounds and subdue their stress.

Don’t just “Speak your Mind”

At present though, the premium the Scriptures place on beneficial words has yielded to “authentic speech.” If a thought enters your mind, in order to be true to yourself, you’re obliged to blurt it...somewhere, somehow, and preferably quickly. It must be gotten out.

An ordinarily reluctant voter in Iowa some time back, re-engaged by the “straight-talk” of a bombastic candidate who led the polls there, was reported as saying, “I admire the way he speaks his mind.”

But mind-speaking is not necessarily an admirable goal, especially if our mind is vacant of wisdom, generosity, affection, understanding, warmth, or virtue. Plenty of us are petty, hateful, paranoid, stingy, suspicious, quick to take offense, and snarkily bitter. Speaking our minds when clogged with such self-regarding contaminants does nothing but pollute.

Speech-Smothering

When our minds are chock-full of this poisonous self-regard, we’re best to smother our speech.

“Often,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together, “we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.”

We imagine we will die of a word-pressure explosion if we don’t express the volatile, complex world within us. The Scriptures, however, contend that if you can somehow govern your speech, you’ll find your bodily behaviors governable as well.

But being led by our hearts, as we’re often un-thoughtfully advised to do, we and all our potential audiences are subjected to a scatter gun assault of ill-considered speech that makes us feel better, while those around us cringe.

CS Lewis wondered whether this might be due to an unwitting diabolical influence.

“To admire Satan, then, is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography.”

Our cultural moment is plastered with the devilish pollen of incessant autobiographical “speaking of the mind.”

We shouldn’t say whatever occurs to us, though. Words aren’t meant to be disposable. And communication should rarely, if ever, serve merely as an act of self-expression. There is much about ourselves that doesn’t need to be expressed.

Lots of our tendencies need simply to be killed, then forgiven.

Verbal Vandalism at the Gym

Verbal-vomit is an act of vandalism to our children’s teachers, our spouses, or to our kids. Politicians and angry dads, talk-radio hosts and little-league moms are all champions of speaking their minds. But rarely does such speech do anything but corrode trust, create defensiveness, and cultivate alienation.

A three-time combat-veteran described his acute anxiety prior to refereeing high school basketball on a local sport-talk show.

The reason? Partisan fans emboldened “to speak their minds.” His apprehension, he intimated, surpassed what he’d previously endured in combat.

And this incredible statement was received as entirely plausible. No one suggested he was being hyperbolic. Because we’ve all been to athletic competitions.

And of course referees are only pretend people, so berating them doesn’t count. If they make a call which displeases us, they deserve a hand grenade of derisive comments.

“Who’s generally the harshest with you on the court?” the Press Row hosts inquired.

“By far the mothers! One night, leaving the parking lot, one mom let me have it such that I could only say, ‘Kudos to you ma’am. I have been in the military, and yet, have never heard anyone say anything quite like that before.’”

But she was just speaking her mind. Working out her intense, unexamined family patriotism on anyone who didn’t share her DNA.

“I just have to be honest...”

If we foolishly learn to regard “speaking our minds” without qualification or assume that, “I just have to be honest here...” means we have licensed ourselves to say whatever injurious things we wish, we will continue to be subject to the stench of rotten, wasted words, stacked like piles of rancid banana peels.

He who “speaks his mind” must first be sure his mind is neither full of himself nor of contempt. She who “speaks her mind” must determine whether her mind has help lodged in it, hope for others residing there, consolation to soothe or useful critique that aspires for improvement.

Knowing himself, as he evidently did, and realizing the disproportionate power of words to maim or to heal, Bonhoeffer implemented, in the seminary community he was leading the following instruction:

 “...it must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.”

What if we all made that a decisive rule in our lives? Of course, inclined as we are to speak for our own relief and not for our neighbor’s benefit, we’ll need lots of help.

But we do have a Savior, who when he was condemned in place of we word-wasters, offered “not a word, not a word, not a word.” He never said a mumblin’ word.

Perhaps we could entrust ourselves to Him for the capacity, the restraint, and the self-giving affection to become the kind of people who might eventually be able to speak our minds nourishingly. Then, instead of the suffocating odor of wasted banana peels, perhaps there’ll be instead, the fragrant aroma of “an instructed tongue that sustains the weary.”

------

Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at eric@rockcreekfellowship.org

 

 

 



"Get It Back" Is Sermon Topic At Metro Tab Church On Sunday

The public is invited to worship at Metro Tab Church on Sunday, at  10:30 a.m .   The message preached by Dr. Steve Ball, senior pastor will be "Get It Back". You will be blessed by the music ministry lead by Rob Alley and Metro Praise. The children's ministry is called Metro Kidz and the staff would love to host your kids as well.   Metro Tab Church ... (click for more)

Local Church Thrives After Several World Wars, Catastrophic Fire and Many Changes; Ooltewah Baptist Church Celebrates 150 Year Anniversary

This year marks Ooltewah Baptist Church being one of the longest continuously operating churches in the area as it commemorates its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary with a three-day celebration from Sept 28-30. Festivities will kick-off with an open-to-the public “150th Anniversary Co-Ed Golf Outing” from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28 at Waterville Golf Course in Cleveland. ... (click for more)

Judge Collier Denies New Trial For Ex Pilot Travel Centers President Hazelwood; Did Not File Within 14 Days Of Verdict

Federal Judge Curtis Collier has issued a 48-page order denying a new trial for former Pilot Travel Centers president Mark Hazelwood. He said initial Hazelwood attorney Rusty Hardin of Houston, Tex., did not follow federal rules of filing notice of an appeal within 14 days of the verdict. Judge Collier also denied a request by Brad Henry, the new Hazelwood lawyer, for time ... (click for more)

Fight Breaks Out During Friday Dismissal At Central High School; Joshua Maddox, 18, Is Arrested With 3 Juveniles

Earlier Friday afternoon, during dismissal at Central High School, a fight broke out, at which time the SRO assigned to the campus called for additional deputies to respond to the school to assist.  The fight involved several students. Of those involved, three juvenile students were transported to the Juvenile Detention Center for disorderly conduct. Joshua Maddox, ... (click for more)

Arming Teachers With Guns Will Be Too Dangerous - And Response (4)

Arming teachers with guns in the classroom, as Bill Lee proposes, would be the single most dangerous thing to happen to students in Tennessee history. Students and teachers in close proximity to loaded firearms daily? Across this state, in middle schools alone, there are probably hundreds of student/teacher conflicts a day. What if a student got hold of gun in a struggle with ... (click for more)

The Saturday Funnies

Before we get into this week’s edition of The Saturday Funnies, I want to share a fun chunk of information that we can have a lot of fun with tonight. Our pals at the website timeanddate.com were good enough to pass along the fact today marks the September Equinox. And – get this -- if you play this right, it will be just like the farmer says: “On the field of opportunity, it’s ... (click for more)