| Years ago I worked for a very great Pastor by the name of Dr. W.A. Criswell. Dr. Criswell was the Pastor of the famous First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. When I was on staff there, we had over 26,000 members. However, the FBI could not find some of them! Dr. Criswell went home to heaven a few years ago after a long and illustrious career. He authored over 50 books and was a Pastor for over 60 years. He was commonly referred to as the “Protestant Pope.” There are probably hundreds of preachers and teachers all over the world today who have “cut their teeth” reading his books and following his example of being a very wonderful leader.
One day we were in a staff meeting and somebody made a comment that had a grammatical error in the sentence. Another staff member corrected their grammatical mistake and pointed out the correct way the words should have been spoken. Dr. Criswell had a very unusual grin on his face. Then he spoke up and said, “I’d rather hear a man say, ‘I seen something’ when he actually saw something than to hear a man say, ‘I saw something’ and he ain’t seen nothin’!” I will never forget that comment. It burned deep into my soul that day. As great of a man as Dr. Criswell was, he had compassion on everyone who made verbal mistakes. Dr. Criswell was an English major at Baylor University. So, I can assure you he knew how to say things correctly.
Yet, this great man knew what it meant to “cut people some slack” when they didn’t say things exactly right. It was important to him to see the reality of a person’s life, rather than simply listening to words being spoken correctly when people talked.
Do you and I sometimes feel like we are the verbal “police officers” of the world? Do we go through the day correcting everything that other people say or do that we see is wrong in life? It is so easy to do!
Although I learned that lesson from him over 25 years ago, it has served me well almost every day of my life. When I hear a person make a mistake, I listen deeper than just the words they spoke. I try to find out what it really is they are trying to say.
I can hear some of you thinking, “You don’t have to worry about me correcting someone else’s grammar. I don’t know if I am speaking correctly myself!”
Communication is a very strange phenomenon. It is real easy for all of us to listen to the words that are spoken by a person rather than hearing what they are actually trying to say. In this particular case, Dr. Criswell helped me to see that if a man said, “I seen something” not to attack his words, but to try to listen to his heart to see what he actually saw. There are many people who can correctly say what they saw on a daily basis, but in time, we find out that they actually “ain’t seen nothin’.”
This week let me encourage you to cut everyone a little more slack. Give people the benefit of the doubt when they make verbal mistakes. Unless it is a life or death incident maybe it would be a good idea just to demonstrate a little flexibility towards other people! Learn to look past their words and try to hear deep into their heart what they are trying to say. I know this bit of wisdom has helped me become a better listener and a better communicator. It takes a little time and effort to practice it, but once you get it, it really helps you become a wiser, kinder person.
Tip: If people don’t say everything correctly…take a deep breath and relax!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm