Last week I shared about Living Intentionally or on Autopilot . I want to choose to live intentionally in all of life. In Simple Abundance, Jan Johnson devotes a chapter to talking about simplifying the way we speak; how much we talk, our motives for saying what we do, and being intentional in our words. The experiments suggested in this chapter are ones that require great intentionality. This one chapter taught me so much, not easy lessons, but very important ones. Johnson gave me questions, regarding my words, that I repeatedly ask myself throughout my days now.
Johnson says, “Simplicity of speech flows from a heart that has bonded with the heart of Jesus, compassionate and truthful, loving and good.” This statement sets the tone for what I want to share with you today. Our speech, what we say, and how we say it, has a huge impact on those who hear us.
When our tongues are on autopilot the flow of our words is often left unchecked. We may find ourselves exaggerating to gain self-importance, using words to manipulate and to get our way, telling white-lies, or even raising our voices and repeating ourselves to be heard. Do you see a pattern here? Each of these measures points back to the importance of self. Johnson says that simplicity of speech is about “[words] that are few in number but deep in fullness” these words “rise up from a heart that has examined and distilled its motives and given up trying to push itself forward or win over others.”
I am intrigued by her use of the word “distilled.” Distillation is used with water to remove the impurities by boiling the liquid. Distilling my motives means putting a fire under them to separate out the impurities in them as well. This is such an important process in being intentional. Johnson mentions in this chapter that she began to ask herself why she was talking. When my tongue is on autopilot it just goes on and on and I think very little of my motives. I have decided that her idea may be a beneficial practice and I have started asking myself “why am I talking?” Many times I cannot come up with a good reason.
Ephesians 4:29 tells us that the talk that “comes out of [our] mouths” should be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Are my words helping to build others up according to their needs? Are my words really benefiting the one who is listening? Maybe the distilling process would leave me with words that have these effects.
“[Communication] doesn’t work if our goal is to express ourselves rather that create space for God’s grace to flow.”
I am afraid all too often my communications are more about me getting my point across than creating space for God’s grace to flow. What about you? I need to learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. Johnson tells how she chose to experiment with the practice of not giving her opinion unless she was asked for it. I tried that and it really was a struggle. It seems that my mind is always racing ahead thinking about what I want to say rather than listening to what is being said. But the occasions for my opinion to be asked for, those were definitely rare. I am not sure that I ever realized that before.
Johnson suggests that “[instead] of thinking of what we want to say, we work at silencing our thoughts and [become] fully present to the other person.” It is such an intentional practice to focus fully on what the other person is sharing. This means silencing the constant inner-chatter and just listening. It is not easy to do. Reality is that we often just want to be heard more than we want to listen. Or at least that seems to be what happens with me.
Proverbs 10:19 explains, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words but the prudent hold their tongues.”
So, as I learn a few of the practices shared in this chapter on the simplicity of speech, I realize I must work to hold my tongue. I must learn to listen more, and I must learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. This was an amazing chapter and I have only shared a few of the ideas she offered. I have shared the ones that I am trying to practice. I know I will go back to this chapter again and again, to learn to practice others, as I am now very aware of my tongue so often on autopilot.
Is simplicity in speech an area you desire to be intentional with?
Talk to the Lord and seek His directions, ask Him how you can create space for His grace to flow.