1 Kings 12:12-16
Sometimes, it isn’t what we say, but how we say it. People learn as much from our tone and tenor as from our words. When we speak and listen attentively and thoughtfully, we show concern, love, and support. Our words can be healing, but they can also be hurtful. The difference is often in the way they are spoken. Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “Some things are true when whispered, but become false when shouted.”
Communication starts with listening. So the king did not listen to the people (v. 15). Rehoboam’s first sin is not his tone or tenor, but his failure to respectfully consider what the people have to say.
The people wait patiently for three days, but the king arrives with harsh words. His tenor and demeanor shout, “I don’t care about you or your needs.” Rehoboam exhibits arrogance, and shows no empathy in his interaction with the Israelites.
Why do the people turn on Rehoboam? When all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them…[they] went away to their tents (v. 16) At the heart of this story is not only a political failure of leadership, but also a personal failure of communication.
We would be wise to learn from Rehoboam’s mistake by listening closely and empathetically, then speaking gently and intentionally. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (Jas 1:19). Think about your words and how you speak them, because one cutting word spoken in anger can hurt. We’d rather use a single compassionate word spoken in love to bring healing.
What would life look like if you committed to listening to others with interest before speaking to them with kindness?
God, may I have the humility to listen, then the wisdom to speak healing words. Amen.