by Dr. Wendell Evans
Dr. Evans the is much-loved former president of Hyles-Anderson College.
I became the pastor of a small congregation in December of 1959. I had not yet reached my twenty-fifth birthday. Five months later, I had finished the last of my residence requirements for my PhD. at Bob Jones University. We could then move the 40 miles from Greenville, South Carolina, to the mountain community of Hendersonville, North Carolina. I was very excited to be a full-time pastor. I no longer had to drive up and down the mountain (literally) to be with my people. Yet, during those years of pastoring, I sometimes offended my people without meaning to do so.
In my years of full-time Christian service, I have learned a few hard lessons about how to be less offensive without compromising biblical truth. These ten rules certainly did not come down from Sinai, but learning them the hard way has finally saved a lot of heartache for those I lead and myself.
- Go slow. When in doubt, don’t say anything.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Instead of thinking, “I’ll put him in his place,” put yourself in his place.
- Be a little hesitant. Approach the problem with the knowledge that you may be wrong.
- Don’t be a “bull in a china shop.”
- Never assume a wrong motive on the part of the other person. You don’t know his motive!
- Correct people privately. By talking individually to the person, he will not be on the defensive. Do not confront him in front of others. It is human nature to resist if attacked in front of someone else. With one-to-one conversation, there will be less embarrassment. For example, years ago a couple of employees made a bad decision. I asked them privately, “Would you go through your thought processes and conclude why you made that decision?” After the employees had thought it through, they realized their mistake. I did not have to point it out to them, and no one else ever knew there was a problem.
- Assume that the person does not realize that what he is doing is wrong.
- Don’t get uptight. Relax!
- It sometimes takes a multitude of words to be tactful and diplomatic. That means that it takes a lot of time. It is good to get a lot of work done fast, but don’t run over people to do it.
- Emphasize your weaknesses in the areas of other people’s strengths. Admit that the other person is more skillful than you are in some areas. By doing so you are not talking down to the one who has made the mistake. You are emphasizing your own failures and mistakes. The offender is then much more relaxed and able to admit his failures and mistakes.
In conclusion, if you are the one getting hurt, learn to laugh it off. If someone else is getting hurt, then it is appropriate for you to get upset about the matter. Being tactful takes time. The untactful person doesn’t take the time to get the facts so he can talk slowly and thoughtfully. Instead, the untactful person gets excited, talks fast, and makes the situation worse. Remember Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another.”