Scientific-speak dubs it “a failed inhibitory ability.”
Maybe you’re not a sufferer? Maybe you remain tight-lipped under pressure and every word trots carefully into place like a verbal show-jumper, with the precision of a Jane Austen heroine. (Why can’t I talk like that?)
No, no: while some of us can hold our tongues better than others, even the best of us will blurt when we’re tired, stressed or distracted.
And if Thomas has gone down in history as “Doubting Thomas” then Peter has given a good performance as “Blurting Peter.”
Time to go silent and ponder, right?
Wrong. “Wow, master” says Peter, “Let’s build three little shelters for you and these guys! Let’s memorialise the mystery!” Maybe we could put a little souvenir shop at the foot of the hill?
OK, I’m exaggerating, but the Bible makes a very interesting remark about why he spoke in this foolish way. The old version has it: “For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.”
He wist not! Stressed by the moment, he just had to say something, but he wist not what to say!
Sometimes we fill in the gaps so that there are no awkward silences in our conversational flow.
Do you ever find yourself starting a story about yourself and then you suddenly realise that it’s really not very appropriate, or it’s indiscreet or too personal, but somehow you find your voice trailing on and on.
Something to wake you up with a blushing face twenty years from now.
Gossip can work like that. You do know a little about something, but you find yourself padding out your little with a bit of imagination, and so the Chinese Whisper begins, with each adding his little, until the whole is distorted.
Darn that failed inhibitory ability.
Here’s Peter again, in the previous chapter (Mark 8(, just a week or so before. They have finally arrived at the breath-taking insight that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus begins to explain that his destiny is to suffer and die. There’s a pause while his words take effect (I imagine!). Then Peter steps in: “No way, Lord. No way that’s going to happen to you.” Jesus rebukes him. “Get behind me satan, for you are minding the things of the earth rather than the things of heaven.”
Isn’t that interesting? Jesus takes the blurt quite seriously. I’m quite sure Peter was just filling up a pause, saying something supportive and pleasant. No way, master, we’re here for you. Something like that.
But Jesus rounds on him. As if the blurt showed the inner Peter, or a choice of two possible directions which Jesus was refusing.
It reminds me of Jesus’ encounter with satan. Satan showed him an alternative route and Jesus refused it. “That is not my path.”
The chilling thought comes to me that maybe my blurting reveals the real me, inadequate and insecure, over-eager to placate and quieten down any potential conflict by mouthing pleasantries.
The first thing is to “Set a guard on my lips.” (Psalm 141:3). And keep that guard on 24-7 watch. And if you haven’t got anything nice to say, say nowt (as they say in my native Yorkshire). Paul set a pattern of thinking in Philippians 4 about whatever is “ true, honest, just, pure, lovely…” and that works for speaking very well. Why speak about the bad stuff?
But blurting, by definition, is a bit of a kneejerk verbal reaction, isn’t it?
James seemed to know all about it “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3). He uses that as a reason why you shouldn’t aspire to be a teacher, because of the importance of controlling that tendency to put your foot in it! He admits that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
A restless evil! Poison!
Help me Lord. Give me the grace to shut up. Help me not to blurt.
And when I do, I need grace again, Lord.
- Who do you think you’re talking to? (revnigelcarter.wordpress.com)
- Luke 9:28-36 (arietta18.wordpress.com)