This phrase about the number of words spoken jumped out at me during scripture reading in my personal devotional this morning. I recalled vaguely someone once saying about my paternal grandfather after whom I was named, Marvin Owen Ashton, that he was “a man of few words.” That was meant to be a compliment. He left a legacy of seeking out and helping widows and other individuals struggling in their circumstances. It was said of him that he not only checked their kitchen tables for food, but also the coal bins and the home mortgage balances—and he helped whenever he could. It’s quite a heritage to try to live up to. He died before I was born so unfortunately, I never met him.
A search for a quotation from him yielded this from an online biography: “Measure your words and let them be few.” This explanation followed: “Good listeners are at a premium. Don’t talk just to be talking or get attention. When you speak, have something to say.”
My life’s experiences tell me that usually there is too much talking and not enough listening in the world. The number of words spoken and written on talk radio, the internet, and other mediums seems to increase exponentially every year. Yet, when I lead support groups and teach mental health classes to those who suffer from mental illness, a key cause for their hurt and suffering seems to be not enough listening—especially by family members and others who should have cared. Too much talking and not enough listening.
As I was trained and worked for many years as an accountant, I like to quantify things in order to understand them better. Perhaps someday I’ll do a study on the number of words spoken and try to compare it to the positive impact a person has on others. I’d expect to find an inverse relationship.