In Queen Victoria’s Windsor Castle there was a suite of rooms that were used by her personal chaplain. A private passageway connected the chaplain’s study to the Queen’s quarters. Oftentimes she would use this passageway to consult the chaplain on important matters. Sitting in the passageway was a pet parrot in a cage.
One day, as the Queen was returning to her quarters after a consultation, the parrot spoke to her. She couldn’t make out what it said, but she knew the tone was rather rude. Curious, she asked the chaplain what the bird had said. Greatly embarrassed, he answered, “If you please, Your Majesty, I would rather not repeat it.” “But what was it?” she insisted. “Something I fear Your Majesty will not like; therefore I hope Your Majesty will excuse me from telling it.” At that point the Queen’s curiosity couldn’t be held in check. She said, “Come, I insist.” The chaplain then bowed himself and answered, “Since Your Majesty insists, the parrot said, ‘Go along, you ugly old woman!'” Upon hearing that, the Queen burst out in laughter and said, “Well, I am glad that there is at least one voice in the kingdom which is not afraid to tell me what it thinks of me.”
I once heard a preacher say, “Straight talk is easily understood.” I always liked that line. I even entitled my book Straight Talk About God’s Will. I am a firm believer that there isn’t enough straight talk in our society. We are masters at mincing words. We water down the truth to take the edge off it. We live in terror of offending someone or hurting their feelings. This has made us a nation of weaklings where everyone is sheltered from uncompromising truth, a country where being blunt is looked upon as a sin and being critical as an abomination. I’d say that we could learn something from that Windsor Castle parrot.
I have to wonder how God’s Old Testament prophets would fare in modern-day America. Take Amos for example. He called the ungodly women of the northern kingdom of Israel “cows of Bashan” (Amos 4:1). I doubt that he could build much of a congregation with such preaching today. Of course, Jesus sometimes preached in that same vein. He called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” (Matthew 23:13), “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16), “fools” (Matthew 23:17), “serpents” (Matthew 23:33), and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). That’s not exactly, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is it?
I’m not saying that tact and diplomacy don’t have their place. As a matter of fact, they should be the basic rule that governs our words. My point is that we have swung so far in that direction that we’ve just about forgotten the value of straight talk. It’s hard for honest-to-goodness communication to thrive through the mountains of “fake nice” smiles we wear and words we use. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself when was the last time that you either got an honest answer or gave one to the question, “How are you today?” If anyone ever answered that question truthfully rather than give the generic response, “I’m fine,” the person who asked would be shocked!
So what do I want you to do with this post? That’s simple: use it as an incentive to be more “real” in your conversations. If there is a problem, say so. If something needs to be corrected, speak up. If a change needs to be made, don’t keep to yourself about it. Vanilla words might allow us all to remain in our comfort zones, but they will never advance God’s work in this world. Sometimes you’ve just got to tell it like it is and let Him handle the fallout.