Thursday, July 20, 2006

Miss Piggy with a Nose Ring

“And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34)

Discretion is a sure sign of spiritual discernment—particularly when it is seen in our speech. I know our Lord was impressed by it. One has only to read this verse in Mark to see that. In this chapter, where we read of yet another incident of incessant questioning of Jesus by religious leaders, one lone scribe in the group speaks with such discretion that it garners this unique approval from our Lord.

The Bible has much to say about discretion. It was one of several qualities Paul said mothers should instill within their daughters, or any other young women they might be in a position to influence (Tit.2:3-5). As you might expect, you will find numerous references to it in the Book of Wisdom. One such proverb would be comical if it were not so sadly true. “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Prov.11:22). This is where my somewhat satirical title came from. After all, what could be any more absurd than the pretense of elegance on a creature with barnyard manners? And to encounter a woman with all the trappings of a lady, yet lacking discipline of speech, is just as jarring. It makes one want to say, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

The Oxford English Dictionary provides us with a thorough definition of the adjective, discreet: “Showing discernment or judgment in the guidance of one’s own speech and actions; judicious, prudent, circumspect, cautious; often esp. that can be silent when speech would be inconvenient.” And that latter is exactly what discretion has always meant to me—it is seen not so much in what you say as it is in what you refrain from saying. The ability to separate the shareable with the non-shareable, as it were. In fact, that is exactly what the Latin root word means: “to know enough to keep separate.”

There was a time when the ability to be friendly and open, without telling all about oneself, was common enough. Now it seems to be almost a lost art. In a day when someone can become an “intimate” (literally!) in a few hours, anyone who practices discretion is often labeled stand-offish, perhaps even secretive. Things once considered sacrosanct have been relegated to the category of friendly give-and-take in conversation—everything from personal income to marital intimacy.

Beyond that, I would also like to think there are things about me that only God knows, not just because He is omniscient, but because I tell Him. Who better to go to when I feel the need to get something off my chest? Truthfully, should I feel better after talking things over with a friend than I do after I have laid them out before my Heavenly Father? Perhaps if we were more intimate with Him, we would feel less need to bare our souls to those around us.

As mothers, we should impress upon our daughters the pleasing grace of discretion, remembering at the same time that it is a virtue that must be nurtured all our lives. We will always be tempted to appear more accessible or try to bolster friendships by telling confidential things about ourselves (or others). But if we are wise, we will resist that temptation. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit of God to convict and teach us: “For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him (Isa.28:26).

Remember; if you fail to heed the warning, you just might end up looking like “You-know-who!”

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