We've been talking about the rare but essential quality of tact. I mentioned that the classic example of tactless humanity is the abrasive Christian who feels it is his or her calling to fight for the truth with little or no regard for the other fella's feelings. For all his rapid-fire Scripture quotations, you will rarely find Proverbs 18:19 on the lips of this armored crusader:
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
His favorite plan of attack is either to overlook or strongly demand, and the backwash is a back alley strewn with the litter of broken hearts and bitter souls. Unfortunately, the preacher himself is often the greatest offender, who seems to delight in developing a devastating pulpit that scourges rather than encourages, that blasts rather than builds. His murder weapon is that blunt instrument hidden behind his teeth.
"The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer," wrote Solomon. "That which turns away wrath is a gentle answer."
The wise person uses his tongue to "make knowledge acceptable," the king added. And who could ever forget the impact of the proverb that says:
"The tongue of the wise brings healing" . . . or "a man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!"
There's a TV ad for a first-aid ointment that says, "Stop hurting . . . start healing." Another offers a bandage that takes the "ouch" away. That's good counsel. Let's be gentle and sensitive when we are touching the tender feelings of others. Moms and dads, it's hard to exaggerate the value of tact within the walls of your home. Soften the blows a little! You'll preserve some very valuable self-esteem while gaining respect, believe me.
By the way, no facts need be subtracted when tact is added. I used to sell shoes years ago. With a twinkle in his eye, my seasoned employer instructed me not to say, "Lady, your foot is too big for this shoe!" Instead, I was taught to say, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but this shoe is just a little too small for your foot." Both statements expressed the facts, but one was an insult and the other a tactful compliment. Same facts, different words.
It didn't shrink her foot, but it did save her face. And that's what tact is all about.
Excerpt taken from Come before Winter and Share My Hope by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.