Thursday, September 17, 2015

Quiet Amidst the Chaos

Did you catch the phenomenon that occurred a couple of weeks ago?

The winds of politics shift so swiftly it might be old news by the time this post appears, but Dr. Ben Carson, a noted neurosurgeon who has never held public office, had drawn even with Donald Trump in a poll of voters in Iowa, one of the early Presidential election testing grounds.

No, I’m not about to launch into some political diatribe. It’s just that after all the attention Trump has received from the media for his loud and expansive harangues, it’s interesting that Carson – in many ways kind of an “anti-Trump” – has quietly surged in voter appeal.

A writer on one Internet news and commentary site exposited, “Trump is a bombastic narcissist, Carson is quiet and self-effacing.” The columnist also described Carson, in contrast to the controversial Trump, as “polite and well-mannered” and “a gentleman.”

I admire many of Dr. Carson’s views, and his life story – rising from an impoverished childhood to achieve international acclaim in the world of medicine – is inspiring. But after watching some of his videos, which show his calm, soft-spoken, deliberate demeanor, I felt certain his style was too reserved to garner the attention needed for a serious Presidential effort. Maybe I was wrong.

The rule of the day in garnering headlines seems to be “loud and proud, bold and boisterous,” and the louder and more outlandish the presentation is, the better. So it seems curious that the quiet, controlled voice of an eminent physician could even be heard amidst the chaos.

Maybe it’s the “E.F. Hutton effect.” If you’re old enough you'll remember the TV commercials of the late 1970s for the stock brokerage in which groups of busy people would suddenly pause because, as the ads declared, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” I’ve known people like that, refraining from saying much in meetings, but when they did speak up, you knew it would be something worth listening to.

Sometimes the din of shouting gets so loud it’s almost impossible to hear what’s being said. At such times, the soft, calculating voice of wisdom has a way of cutting through the clamor.

The Bible teaches as much. One of my favorite verses from Proverbs – which I’ve attempted many times to put into practice – states, “When words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

Several other passages speak directly to the virtues and benefits of judicious and measured speech. For instance, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Another verse, Proverbs 17:27, states, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”

Then there’s the stern warning from Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Have you ever thought about careful, well-considered words as being a treasure? Proverbs 20:15 declares, “Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” Diamonds from the tongue, maybe?

Dozens of other verses in Proverbs address both effective and careless communication, but one that might be worth considering as we watch the Presidential races ramp up in the coming months offers this advice: “He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend” (Proverbs 22:11).

Fourteen months from now, when all the screaming and shouting, posturing and preening has mercifully come to a conclusion, will the man or woman preparing to assume the Presidency be one whose speech was quiet, yet convincing? It will definitely be interesting to see.

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