By Jennifer Davis Rash
My young friend Bree posted an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on her Facebook page in mid-June. I liked it and planned to use it myself sometime. After all, Bree is one amazing high school freshman and will definitely take on the world one day. Why wouldn’t I want to repost something Bree had posted?
But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it:
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
I don’t know about you, but Roosevelt’s words punched me in the gut. I do love to discuss ideas and definitely land in the discussing events category a good bit of time, but sadly I also step over into the small minds category as well. More than I would like to admit.
What is it that tempts us to talk about others, judge them, spend our precious time and energy venting about them? Why don’t we stay focused on doing our best with what we have and where we are, working to make our environment and those around us better rather than letting the actions (or inactions) of others capture our attention? And why can’t we address issues that concern us with the people directly instead of talking about the person and the issue to others?
A wise mentor of mine encourages me to avoid letting others’ actions frustrate and/or offend me and always reminds me “to offend is to control.”
I also think of the apostle Paul’s teachings in Ephesians 4:
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. …
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. …
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. …
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Does this mean we avoid conflict, smile and act like everything’s OK when it’s not?
I don’t think so. Ephesians 4 also commands us to “speak the truth in love” and to “put off falsehoods” — basically be truthful and real with each other but do it with kindness and sincerity.
What if we all let the Word of God guide our hearts solely and completely every day? What if we gave the benefit of the doubt to each person who frustrates or offends us? But we don’t stop there, we also talk to the person to find out the reason behind what happened and attempt to understand.
What if we allow others to speak truthfully to us and avoid getting offended so they are comfortable sharing with us? What if we evaluate what they say objectively, consider if their information is accurate and could be implemented, then provide any additional information needed for the other person to better understand the situation him- or herself?
What if we carefully distinguish opinion and what might be read into what isn’t said with confirmed fact?
What if we had the courage to approach our family, friends and coworkers with the truth “in love” and followed the biblical teaching of “iron sharpening iron” in Proverbs 27:17?
What if we could release others to truly be the person God has called him or her to be and let go of our need to control others around us?
What if we could sincerely and thoroughly trust each other? Would Ephesians 4 come alive for us then?
You are likely snickering at my idealism about now, and probably rightly so. I do like to dream of the “what ifs” sometimes. I certainly don’t know how to rid people (myself included) of the baggage they bring with them nor do I know how to untrain the masses that have been taught “leadership” skills focused on avoiding being transparent and truthful.
But I do know God’s Word provides clear direction on this topic. The hardest part for me is the uncomfortableness that comes with these conversations and the fear and resistance felt by all parties involved.