by C Michael Patton
All the knowledge in the world with no tact is worthless. A little knowledge with a lot of tact can change the world.
“Handling” people. That is one of the hardest things to learn about in life. How to “handle” our spouse. How to “handle” our moody boss. How to “handle” a person at church who has a “less than stellar” personality. I don’t often “handle” people well. It takes a lot of time, patience, and empathy. It takes all of those things that don’t come naturally to me. I like to act rashly, without having to organize a “plan of attack.” I am going through this right now with my teenage daughter. If ever two people clashed, it is me and her. I think it is because we are so much alike. Either way, most of the time I get frustrated, irritable, and say things that can do nothing other than make our relationship more difficult.
I am under the impression that we Christians do not “handle” people well. We often substitute knowledge for prudence, tact, and wisdom. We think that if we have the right answers, this covers a multitude of sins. We think knowledge and correct information somehow run on autopilot and have the power to persuade in and of themselves.
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If you are in the world of theological discussion, multiply this imprudence by ten. And if you are on the internet, you can multiply that by ten.
Here are some things that qualify as the opposite of tact:
- Having to be right about everything
- Being unnecessarily offensive
- Failing to show respect to people as God’s image bearers
- Lack of graciousness in speech
- Misrepresenting your opponent
- Never giving the benefit of the doubt
- Correcting people you have never encouraged
- Always saying what’s on your mind
- “Hit-and-run” comments on the internet
Tact requires sensitivity. Tact requires thoughtfulness. Tact requires patience.
What does tactless Christianity look like?