QUESTION: Does the Bible say anything about interrupting a conversation? Several times this week when I’ve been in conversation with another individual, someone will walk up and interrupt; the direction the conversation has taken is lost and is very frustrating to me at least.
I’m a good listener and when this happens and the person who interrupted walks away, I say, “As you were saying …” and often it takes awhile for us to get back on track. If what I’ve been saying is interrupted, most of the time the other individual doesn’t give me the opportunity to finish what I was saying because the train of thought is gone.
What does it take for individuals to understand good manners when others are involved in conversation?
~ Frustrated Conversationalist
Dear Frustrated Conversationalist,
One of the signs of a civilized society is the ability of its citizens to yield to others and being considerate and mindful of others. Treating others with respect, honor and [good] manners are virtues that are difficult to find in our society these days. Restraining our impulse to interrupt is a sign of self-control and waiting our turn to speak is a respect that we can offer to others.
The Bible speaks of how “love is patient and kind … it does not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Interrupting someone’s conversation surely isn’t loving, but rude. The Bible also encourages us to be eager to listen more and slow to speak. It says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
However, I want to ask why these interruptions kept taking place and what can you do about it? Ask yourself first if they intended to offend you by doing it. Is it possible that they were under time pressure? Maybe they were in a hurry. Because you don’t want negative emotions to usurp you, I want to suggest that you change your communication style by speaking faster and getting to the point. Also, next time another interruption happens, ask the interrupter to give you a second to finish what you were saying (Interrupt the interrupter). Maybe this will help shine some light to the interrupters of his/her rudeness.
Rev. Elaine Cho
Dear Frustrated Conversationalist,
In today’s culture, many have not been taught good manners, whether related to the issue of interrupting conversations, or even just holding doors open for others. Retraining a generation must come from parents, but until then we have to patiently work with those around us, according to their ability to respond and learn.
If this is a regular occurrence you are experiencing, I believe it would be helpful for you to stop the interrupter and let them know you are in a conversation, asking them when would be a good time for you to talk with them. Then return to your conversation without allowing the interrupter to continue. Sometimes this is difficult if we feel we are not being kind in doing so; however, remember, the interrupter is the one who is not being thoughtful, and you should learn to assert yourself to avoid these interruptions.
On the other hand, if your conversations with others are so engaging that others feel they need to interrupt you to be able to speak to you, you might want to practice asking the person you are conversing with if they can hold that thought for a moment while you give your attention to the person desiring to interrupt. I know we can lose our place when interrupted, but making a mental note with the person we are talking to, such as, “Let’s pick this up at this given point,” before turning to the interrupter can help you make a mental note of where you were in the conversation.
As far as a Biblical scripture addressing this specific issue, there are only general ones, such as, “Be kind one to another,” etc. Being kind while feeling like we are being mistreated can be difficult. But to avoid passive-aggressive behavior on our part, we need to properly handle and address the interrupter in a manner that sets boundaries while still treating everyone involved with respect.
Pastor Terry Neven
QUESTION: I’m really having problems with faith. So much has happened to me lately that I feel like God has it in for me. A job I’ve had for 20 years has been shipped to another country; a brother I was very close to had a brain aneurism and is on life support; and my dog, a loyal companion who was only five years old, had to be put down because of cancer. Add to that, I have a tumor in my breast that has to be removed and a beloved neighbor who I’ve lived next to for 30 years died unexpectedly.
I was raised Christian and, for the most part, my life has been good until just recently. I can’t understand why, all of a sudden, I’ve had so many things happen that affect my emotional and spiritual health. Do you have any suggestions that will help me get back on track spiritually? I have no intention of giving up my Christian belief. It’s just the faith part that is all but gone.
~ Baffled Christian
Dear Baffled Christian,
I’m sorry to hear that you are dealing with so much in your life. We don’t always know why things happen, and even if we did, it can be challenging to keep your head above water when you’re treading to just stay afloat spiritually.
This is the time when you build your faith by staying in daily practice spiritually. Make faith the cornerstone of your life, not just during these trying times, but everyday. In the Bible the 11th chapter of Hebrews is full of instances proving faith’s sustaining power. Paul speaks at length the experiences of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samuel and the prophets, and many more, “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in power, turned to flight armies of aliens, women received their dead raised to life again.” Every day and night find something to be grateful for. The smallest gratitude is important. Write them down. Being in gratitude changes our attitudes and feelings about things/situations. It shifts the energy into positive mode. When our energy is shifted by out attitude, we soon find that life is good, regardless of circumstances. And by expression of your own faith, you are also helping others to find faith, acceptance and trust in their own circumstances.
It can take baby steps, but stay at it and soon you will find and feel the Light behind the cloud. Read encouraging life stories to see how others made it through and life became even bigger and better. I highly recommend “Unstoppables” by Cynthia Kersey, with wonderful stories of how people overcame amazing obstacles. It’s a great reminder of how staying strong, staying in faith, despite of the appearances, can turn life’s circumstances around.
Don’t give in or give up. Staying in faith, belief, acceptance and trust will support you every day in every way. Many blessings.
Laney Clevenger White,
My heart broke when I read your letter. Any one of the items you mentioned are traumatic in and of themselves, but having them all hit you in such a short time period must be devastating. I’m so very sorry that you are going through all this.
There’s a word that describes this phenomenon; it’s theodicy. To borrow the title of a book written by Rabbi Harold Kushner, theodicy is about why bad things happen to good people. In a broader sense, it looks at how an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God can be consistent with evil in the world. This question has likely been around as long as people have been thinking about who might have created them, but the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term in the 18th century. Bad things really do happen to good people, and we are at a loss to know why.
This situation is explored in depth in the Book of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures. Job was a good and responsible man, but his whole world came tumbling down on him. He ended up sitting on a dung heap scraping his scabs with a broken piece of pottery. Job’s friends kept telling him, “You must have done something bad or God wouldn’t have sent all these horrible things down upon you.” But Job didn’t do anything bad! Job finally tells God that he recognizes that God is the one in charge of things; it is God who has infinite knowledge, not Job. Job’s faithfulness in spite of all the bad things causes God to care so much for him that God brings him into the fullness of God’s communion. Job’s fortunes are restored, even multiplied, and he lived a long life surrounded by his family.
So, how can we apply this to your situation and all of our situations for that matter? First is to realize that God does not have it “in” for any of us. We don’t deserve any type of mistreatment from God or anyone else. Second, God is ever faithful to each and every one of us. We see this time and again in the Hebrew Scriptures; the ancient Israelites kept turning away from God, but God was always there to welcome them back. Third, we need to trust in God. I know this is a tall order. I have trouble doing it more times that I care to admit. If nothing is at risk, though, we wouldn’t need to have faith. It’s hard to keep faithful when everything is beating you down, but that is what we are called to do. I’m not talking about a blind, child-like faith. What I mean is that we need to question our faith, really think hard about our relationship with God. What has God done for me and how am I reciprocating?
Here’s a piece of practical advice, which may or may not help. Try to find little glimpses of God’s grace in your life. Look for the good things that are happening to you. Maybe there’s a really pretty flower growing in your garden, or a friend helps you unexpectedly. We can be overwhelmed with all the bad things going on around us that sometimes blot out the good things. Do something that you really like to do and gives you pleasure. Perhaps it’s reading or going for a walk. What I’m suggesting is to find things that can help balance out all the bad stuff that’s happening in your life.
I’ll pray for you and your loved ones. May God keep you under the shadow of His wings.
Fr. Kirby Smith