George Washington’s second term inaugural speech only lasted two minutes. Just 48 years later President William Henry Harrison’s lasted an hour and forty minutes. In spite of the cold and stormy day, he refused to wear a hat or coat. He got a cold that developed into pneumonia. He died 31 days later.
The moral of the story is to keep your speeches short. We seldom learn this lesson at the political, religious or parental level.
After seeing a dear musician friend preached right into hell by a long-winded idiot posing as a minister, I was asked by Rev. Gene Coleman to help found Carpenter’s Cowboy Church to minister to nightclub musicians. I was ripe for the task after seeing what happened to my buddy.
One thing I will say for Rev. Coleman: He can say more in 20 minutes than most preachers can say in an hour. His sermons were very interesting and concise. Instead of dreading to face a verbal storm every Sunday morning, I looked forward to what he had to say.
Somewhere along the line many of us have picked up the idea that the longer you talk, they more you will say and the more you will impress people. It doesn’t work that way. If it did people would get up every day and read an encyclopedia.
What is most effective is to say what the occasion calls for in the shortest and most interesting way. Instead of reading an encyclopedia to them, read a selection that directly relates to where they are right now and what they need.
Naggers especially get tuned out when their nagging takes on the lifespan of Methuselah. Reminds me of the old man whose wife kept walking around the house mumbling, “Where are the scissors?” He got sick of it and said, “The next time to mention those *#^&! scissors I’m gonna drown you, woman!” In minutes she mentioned “scissors” again and he dragged her back to the creek and pushed her under.
The first time she came up she yelled, “Scissors!” The second time she came up she again yelled, “Scissors!” The third time she had too much water in her pipes to yell but she made a scissor-like motion with her fingers.
She was convinced the longer the nag the great effect it would have and it was just the opposite.
Parents fall into this snare and get tuned out by their kids. The most effective counseling my mother ever did with me was silence.
As a 16 year old, I sneaked off and got drunk on moonshine. I tiptoed into our front bedroom and shortly had to knock the window screen out to vomit. Just as I finished, mother came in. She cupped my face in her hands and said, “My boy is sick, isn’t he?” I mumbled, “Yes Ma’m.” She said, “My boys is drunk, isn’t he?” Again I mumbled, “Yes Ma’m.” She went for a cool rag and bathed my face and went to bed without another word.
I just knew at breakfast I would get both barrels. But she was a merry as a sprite. She never mentioned what had happened. For days I waited for the big sermon but it never came.
She knew exactly what she was doing. She was letting me flog myself. She had shown me she loved me and was satisfied to let that sink in.
It was the last time I ever came home drunk. Not only did she not preach me a long sermon, she didn’t say anything at all. The cold rag and knowing she knew what a monkey I had made of myself was enough.
Maybe with her fine-tuned mother’s ear, she could hear the little short sermon I was preaching to myself. It went like this: “For Mama so loved Dalton that she let him marinate in his own juices.”
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