Apples of Gold

Proverbs 25:11 says: A word spoken in the right circumstances is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  This verse emphasizes the importance of proper words in any given situation.  Sometimes, we see that people around us will say things which are not proper for the situation, or to put someone down or slander others.  By doing so, they tend to lose the favor of others.  I experience this kind of situation sometimes.  I understand that it is not often for church members to have a chance to talk to me and in such a rare occasion, they may say things which are not very proper or beneficial.  I know they do not really mean it in such a negative way so sometimes it can be almost comical.

It would be helpful if we remember that there are always two aspects included in our words.  One is the content (message) which I want to deliver, and the other is a building block to form a relationship with the other person.  For example, if one says, ‘Do you want to go to a movie tomorrow?’, it indicates that the speaker wants to watch a movie, and also it communicates that we either have such a close relationship to go to a  movie together or the desire to have such a relationship.  If a supervisor asks to his staff to get a cup of coffee for him, it means not only that he wants coffee but also his words indicate that he is in a position to make such a request.

Often, conflict occurs because we did not match these relationship clues correctly.  When someone is upset and wonders “How can he treat me like this?”, we can see that most of the time, it is not the message but the implication of the relationship in the statement which makes listener upset.  One example goes like this.  When a husband returns home, his wife wants to talk to him, but the husband is tired and hungry and he may say, “Is dinner ready?”  To the wife, she does not hear that her husband is hungry, but hears ‘Your main job is to prepare dinner for me.’ so she gets upset and they may get into an argument.  Therefore, it will be very helpful to remember how to define a relationship as we speak.

Another point to remember is to check whether there is a conflict between the message and implied relationship.  When a man is attracted to a woman passing by, he invites her to have coffee together.  This normally does not work because the current relationship and the implied relationship in the invitation do not agree.  Generally, having coffee together is between people who have a close relationship and the current situation is between total strangers.  In other words, certain suggestions without the supporting relationship are often perceived as offensive.  Sometimes, we want to say something which we believe is really beneficial and necessary advice, but then it is not well received and only offends the other person.  In that case, we need to review the relationship to see whether we are in a position to give such advice.  This step needs to be taken before providing any unsolicited advice.

Actually, this is a very important element for us to remember in house church gatherings.  When we do not think about this aspect, it is easy to offend a newcomer.  The newcomer may not be ready to share his/her thoughts and may be in a wary position.  To such a person, asking personal questions or making an inappropriate joke can be quite repulsive.  It would be quite beneficial for us to remember this.

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