Someone is listening

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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      Conversations in public are usually thought to be between the parties who are conversing and only heard by the ears of the intended listener. The public setting presents a dynamic in which people have the freedom to express their thoughts and ideas but they do so with the risk of being overheard by others. Of course, this is not a problem if what is being said is healthy and uplifting. The danger is when bystanders only hear part of what is said and/or negative dialogue. This is why it is important to make sure conversations, especially those in public, are always above board. 

       Recently, the chairman of deacons and I were having a meal at a local restaurant to discuss how to better minister to the congregation. As our church continues to grow, the leadership wants to ensure the needs of the people are met and no one falls through the cracks. We love people, so the chairman and I discussed some methods to connect with the congregation. It was a great conversation that, we thought, was just between the two of us. 

       People were coming and going in the restaurant like normal but our conversation, or at least part of it, fell upon the ears of someone else. The impact was, because of our conversation, one of these people decided to come and visit the church. The chairman and I had no idea someone else was listening to what we were discussing nor that it would impact the life of another person. To us, it was just a private conversation that was being held in public. Little did we realize that someone was listening. This was a positive impact but it reinforces the reality that what is said in public has the potential to affect others’ lives.    

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       Several years ago, shortly after Michelle and I moved to Tryon, I was the one impacted by someone else’s conversation. It was lunchtime so I decided to try out another one of our wonderful local restaurants. I was by myself and eating my meal in the dining room of this establishment. As I was enjoying my lunch, I overheard a conversation at the next table. Their conversation was about the hospital and more specifically, about my wife personally. Their comments were less than positive and on the verge of being quite critical and derogatory. At one point, I started to step over and introduce myself but then thought that would not be the right thing to do. Later on, the opportunity arose to deal with what had been said, and when the folks realized their conversation had been overheard, they were embarrassed and felt ashamed of their conduct. Conversations in public may be thought to be private but the reality is, someone is always listening.  

       There are several passages in the Scriptures that deal with words and conversations. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” In the letter of James, we read, “…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…” A passage we should all commit to memory is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” 

       While it is easy to feel what we say in public is our business, we must always realize that others may be listening. Our conversations have the potential to impact others’ lives in a positive or negative fashion. And while it is important to be aware that other people may hear our conversations, we must also remember that God is always listening.