Delivering the Velvet Brick

Proverbs 12:25

An anxious heart weighs a man down,  but a kind word cheers him up.

Read the following humorous story from a writer in Reader’s Digest:  “For the umpteenth time in one shift, my co-worker at the grocery
store somehow managed to offend one of our customers.  “Do you ever think about the things you say before you say them?”  I asked.  “No,” he admitted.  “I like to hear them for the first time along with everybody else.” – (Patrick Chenoweth, “All in a Day’s Work,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 2007, p. 38.)

I am continuing my series on more “apt” speech.  We need to heed Proverbs 15:28 – “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.”   What are we allowing to escape our lips?

Last post I spoke about making our words intelligible.  This one will be about making them kind.  Suppose you have a message to deliver to someone that will effect them deeply.  It might come across as a thrown brick.  But can we wrap that brick in velvet?  Same impact… less bruising.

The following story by Clark Cothern of Ypsilanti, Michigan explains how important this is.

“About forty pastors and denominational leaders in Michigan squeezed into a relatively small conference room to discuss urgent and somewhat controversial matters. It didn’t take long for the discussion to escalate. Volumes increased. Tones grew edges. Observations teetered dangerously close to accusations. Fittingly, lightning flashed through the windows, followed seconds later by thunder heralding a coming storm.

In the midst of the battle, a distinguished African American pastor stood slowly—intentionally so. As he rose, the noise shrank. Everyone knew him as “Brother Rochelle.” His demeanor commanded respect.

Brother Rochelle scanned the room for a good five seconds and then, with a voice trembling with compassion, he spoke, slowly and carefully: “Oh … my dear … children.” He stopped—as did the thunder. It was as though Brother Rochelle had paused to wait for the Spirit of God to prepare the ears and the hearts of every single individual in the room. When he spoke again, it wasn’t a lengthy speech. He quoted a single Bible verse many of us had memorized as children in Sunday school: “Be ye kind, one to another.” Each word dripped with compassion. “Tenderhearted,” he continued, looking around the room as if to convey just how much he loved every single one of us. “Forgiving one another.”

When he sat down, we all sat in the silence brought about by the power of an aptly spoken word. The storm passed. Attitudes shifted. Peace reigned. The meeting continued in a spirit of brotherly love.  (Clark Cothern, Ypsilanti, Michigan)

There is so much painful language in this world.  Our hearts have almost given up on kindness.  We speak words in self-defense… sometimes as preemptive strikes…

We would be wise to weigh our words… to wrap our bricks in velvet.  We may need to deliver the important word… the necessary correction, yet with our words dripping with compassion.

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