Grace for the Chatterbox

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A strong, silent type and a chatterbox

Recently the pastor preached on Mark 9.
Jesus took 3 disciples up a mountain.
His clothes became white as light,
God spoke audibly from heaven,
and Moses and Elijah, who had been dead several hundreds of years, came to discuss issues of life and especially death with Jesus.
It appears that while these three phenomenal, unprecedented events were occurring, James and John stood silent.
Then we have Peter.
In the pastor’s words, he suggested they build tents and camp out up there. With the Son of God and…the guys who had died.
WHY this inane comment?
Because ‘he did not know what to say…’

So, when Peter had nothing whatsoever of value to contribute to the conversation,
he opted to say something of absolutely no value.
Peter suffered from ‘Fill the Silence with Sounds Syndrome. (FSSS)
He is the patron saint of chatterboxes.

A chatterbox, to boil the definition down to its solid state, talks a lot.
Unlike politicians, who talk a lot to get elected, stay elected, or confound anyone who questions their record/stance/expense account/dalliances,
a chatterbox has no firm agenda in mind.
We don’t aspire to impart the wisdom accumulated by ourselves or others, as teachers do, and our verbiage doesn’t expound on the ultimate Word in the way of pastors.

We part our lips. A lot of stuff comes out. It is as simple as that.

Chatterboxes differ from windbags. We don’t just want to hear ourselves speak.
We aren’t egomaniacs. We aren’t driven by a need to convince you of our fabulousness.
Under that steady stream of babbling syllables often lies a bedrock of intelligence.
We do care about people, and express it is via a plethora of utterances.

Are chatterers a product of nature or nurture? No empirical data to back this up, but I’m guessing we are either/or, possibly both/and.
Just don’t assume that every chatterer you meet was born that way.
Many of us, in our essence, are wallflowers.
Tuck us in a quiet corner with a book.
Please.
But another psyche wars within us, a little harder to identify.
The nature that abhors a vacuum of silence.
Many non-stop talkers I know have a fascination with the written word.
Has it metamorphosed into a need for generating the spoken word?
Or maybe us FSSS sufferers harbor an unattractive, latent god-complex.
Anyone’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune can be repelled if we only speak enough words over them.
Share a problem or concern with us and, even as part of our brain says, “Can you just keep quiet and listen, for pity’s sake?” our mouths are positively burbling with advice or sympathy or a similar woe shared by a great aunt.

The wisdom of the world sides with that portion of our brain begging for silence:

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. “ Proverbs 17:28

Aesop made the dictum pithy:
“Fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool”

George Eliot expanded on the adage.
“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

Even the Mad Hatter gets his digs in.
“I don’t think…”
“then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

Compulsive talkers are surrounded by this kind of stuff. We want to appear wise and sage and prudent. Really we do. But like Peter, when we don’t know what to do, we say.

Quiet people suffer from no such urges. And they look like we want to. Intelligent.

But here is the problem. Say there is a party. A baby shower. The in-laws’ 50th anniversary.
One of our ilk sits down at a table with 3 or 4 silent types, each a quiet, wise-looking little iceberg.
Like the Titanic propelled on a turbine of words, our chatterbox steams into view and, unlike the Titanic, breaks the ice. While the icebergs don’t necessarily interact with each other much, they are tolerant of, and even engaging with the icebreaker.
Really, there isn’t much they need do. The chatterer will fill the air with a perpetual tumble of anecdotes and questions and comments.

At the end of the evening the quiet ones head for home. It was a successful evening. They hadn’t been bored. They could socialize gently. They haven’t appeared shy or been accused of being stuck-up.
The chatterbox leaves with her usual host of regrets.
‘I talked too much. Again’
‘I said such STUPID stuff.’
‘Why can’t I develop laryngitis?’
Chattererboxes find comfort where they can:
We are generally liked.
We can patter lightly on about almost any topic.
Occasionally we give offense—how could we not? The odds will catch up to us and we’ll eventually put words end-to-end that hurt someone’s feelings.
But it is almost always inadvertent. Our chief function is to care for others by filling empty space with syllables.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves by saying something worthwhile.
St. Peter burst out with the profession that Christ is the Son of the Living God. And even though he almost immediately blundered into saying something really, really stupid, God used this compulsive chatterer as a foundation to build His church.

Yes, there is ‘a time to keep silence.’
But blessedly, there is also ‘a time to speak;’

13 thoughts on “Grace for the Chatterbox

  1. I too am full of words. You handled this topic so delightfully. And we can usually get our feet out of our mouths if necessary. The quiet people tend to like our friendliness, and forgive our slips.

  2. As a quiet person, I thank God for the chatterboxes! They make life so much easier and more pleasant!

  3. I love this, Anita. I have two chatterboxes in my home, outnumbered by four who NEED silences. It makes for interesting parenting! I love how different God made us, and we try to foster an appreciation of the gifts of each. (Though I am glad the good Lord saw fit to give me two, so when I am in need of quiet I can send them to each other!) Nice post!

  4. Thank you from a fellow chatterbox. You captured my thoughts and feelings perfectly! I saw this saying written on a t-shirt once and I think of it often, “I’m talking and I can’t shut up!”

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