Chaplain’s thoughts … I don’t know what to say

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Have you ever felt like that? You face a dilemma or circumstance that leaves you without words to say? You face a leadership challenge that stresses you seemingly beyond your limits and you just don’t know what to say.

Sometimes as a speaker/preacher/chaplain I encounter dry spells and I just don’t know what to say. I study, pray, scribble on a note pad or pound on my keyboard in hopes of something inspirational popping onto the page, yet to no avail.

I recently spoke with a friend who told me he didn’t know what he was going to say at his own retirement. Of course, I told him he has had over 25 years to prepare so he had no excuse. But it’s a reality that all of us face. There are times when we just can’t find the words.

The Hebrew scripture has a foundational verse tucked neatly away in Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:4-5) This verse is called the Shema, for the word “Hear” in Hebrew. It points to the need/command to listen to God, it conveys the importance of listening to the Torah. So to the faithful it begs this question, “Are you listening?”

I recently attended Luke’s Airmen Leadership School graduation. Our speaker for the evening, General Pleus, (Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander), told the new graduates that one of the most important things for supervisors to do was to listen.

So, if you don’t know what to say, don’t worry — listen first, then speak, hear the needs of friends, colleagues or subordinates, then respond.

Whether as a matter of faith or in the realm of leading people we are well advised to listen. Indeed, your mother was right when she said “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Even if she didn’t know she was quoting the Greek philosopher Epictetus, she was still right. And so are you when you listen to be a faithful follower or to be an effective leader.

Thanks for your service and sacrifice.

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