The timing of well-intentioned words often determines their sweetness in our ears.
I am a doubly irritating person. One, I’m a morning person. There’s something about morning people that grates on the last nerve of people that aren’t geared that way. What’s more, I love to sing. To me, there’s no better way to express the happiness and joy in your heart than to sing about it. But to someone whose best time of the day isn’t the morning, the only thing worse than encountering a morning person is encountering a singing morning person.
By God’s grace (and probably His sense of humor) I married one of those non-morning people. When we first got married, I tried to convert her. “Come on baby, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, and the whole day is in front of us!” I learned very quickly that Jeremiah 13:23 could very well have read, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, or the non-morning person become a morning person?”
But even though I couldn’t change her, I still thought in my mind that the problem was with her. Don’t rain on my glorious early morning parade!
A few years into our marriage we were in a Bible study together going through Proverbs and came across this verse that I never recalled reading before: “If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse!” (Proverbs 27:14). She immediately looked at me and said something like, “Aha! That’s you and me!”
The wisdom of this verse is that well-meaning, good-natured words with good content will not be taken as such if they are not delivered in a time when they can be received. Timing is a key element in delivering true, helpful, blessing-inducing words. This proverb teaches us that if a person doesn’t accept our well-intentioned words, it could be that they were delivered at the wrong time.
Part of learning to be wise with our words is learning to deliver them at the time they can be most effective. If we develop a way of thinking that asks not only what needs to be said but when those words can have the highest impact on the person receiving them, we will exponentially increase the effectiveness of our words. We often only think about what needs to be said. But if we bring our words at the wrong time, they will be taken as a curse and will miss the mark.
The timing of our words can be the difference between them being received as a blessing or a curse. I have lately been learning to apply this wisdom of Proverbs 27:14 to shepherding our daughters.
When my girls act out, there is generally a bundle of emotions and feelings pulsing in their hearts. There is certainly defiance entangled there but also often embarrassment, hurt feelings, sadness over something else going on, tiredness, and even hunger. I have failed so often in speaking to the heart of my children because I focused on the defiance and responded like that is the only thing going on. But a word delivered to correct defiance will be taken as a curse if it isn’t the prominent emotion that is currently driving their behavior. The moment of the offense may not be the correct timing to deliver that correction.
There is wisdom in holding a word of correction to a later time in order to deal with other things going on in the heart. That doesn’t mean that we do not address the defiance, it just means that there needs to be wisdom in knowing when to address it. I am learning that oftentimes I need to stop and ask our daughters if something happened at school or if I had hurt them inadvertently earlier or if they simply need to know that their Daddy loves them no matter what before I deal with their disobedient or disrespectful behavior.
When I bring the right word at the right time, then I get to know the truth of another proverb: “To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how sweet is a word at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:23)