What Happened to Tact?

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
    disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

  • Proverb 18:19, 21

“Wisely labeled ‘the saving virtue,’ tact graces life like fragrance graces a rose.  One whiff erases any memory of the thorns.
“Tact is like that.  It’s remarkable how peaceful and pleasant it can make us.  Its major goal is avoiding unnecessary offense, and that alone ought to make us crave it.  Its basic function is a keen sense of what to say or do in order to maintain the truth and good relationships, and that alone ought to make us cultivate it.  Tact is incessantly appropriate, invariably attractive, incurably appealing, but rare … oh, is it rare! …
“Let’s get aboard the Lord’s bus and enjoy each other, as we leave the striving to Him.”

  • Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Point

It is odd, and unintended that on Sunday, I wrote about the soul and how we strive for physical strength without looking at the health of our soul.  Yes, the soul is eternal, but it must be fed.  Then on Monday, I looked at the unseen, and the soul is unseen.  Now today, I am tying back to the Sunday post, in that in Rev. Swindoll’s last statement, he admonishes us to leave the striving to God.  In the NASB, we are told in Psalm 46:10 to stop striving and wait upon the Lord.

But today, Rev. Swindoll suggests that we wait tactfully, as if tact even exists anymore.  He admitted in the 90s when he published the quoted book that it was rare then and it seems to have totally left the building since then.

I am an introvert.  When I am around people for too long and they don’t know when to leave so that I can be alone with God and restore the energy in my batteries…  For extroverts, that unfinished sentence makes no sense.  The longer an extrovert is around other people the more energetic they get.  Please, please, please!!! Understand that your gain in energy is at the expense of the introvert in the room.  It is like you are sucking the life force from the introvert intravenously.  But, back to my sentence that I never finished.  When that happens, I can get snarky.  I have mastered the art of sarcasm, and when I get to the point of either solitude or “go on life support due to my batteries being totally drained”, I can affect solitude by using my lack of tact to clear the room.  It is sometimes gradual with plenty of warnings, but when I have reached “enough,” tact is officially over.

Sorry, I may have confessed too much in the last paragraph.  Most people are shocked, thinking that I am lying when I say that I am an introvert.  After all, for over 30 years, I got paid to stand in front of groups and talk.  I was animated.  I cracked jokes.  I established rapport.  But they do not understand why I did those things.  I was animated to disguise my totally crippling fear of being in front of only 5-6 people talking, not to mention the 300-500 people at times.  And I am getting sweaty now that I said not to mention those times.  After all, I did say to not mention it.  I stayed animated to cover the nervous tics.  You know, pacing back and forth, using grand gestures, I finally got to the point where my hands didn’t shake, but rarely did anyone notice.  I cracked jokes to endear myself to the audience, but also to calm my nerves.  Hearing others laugh soothed the fearful beast inside me.  And I established rapport, because, as a Christian, I might be talking about a technical subject with no mention of God, but I wanted them to know that I did not care about my paycheck at that moment; I cared about them as individuals and I wanted to see them succeed.  At the core of my teaching career, I wanted to show God’s love in that I gave of what I had, knowledge and skill, so that they could do their jobs better in the future.

But when I got back to my hotel room each night, I wanted to have my entire body rubbed down in pain removing creams and ointments, especially my calves.  I learned through the pain that I had leaned forward to hear their comments and carefully answer their questions to the best of my ability.  As such, I was straining the calf muscles in both legs all day long.  And as I sat in eucalyptus and menthol nirvana, I recharged my batteries just a little, knowing that in a couple of hours, I would have to go out with my partners to dine with hardly any energy to even fake being animated.

But all of that to explain that with customers, I used as much tact as I could muster.  Then, over the evening meal with my friends, when I was still hardly existing on the energy in my batteries, I teased and got sarcastic, but I tried to turn it into jokes.

Isn’t that what modern humor seems to be?  Sarcasm, snarky comments, and being rude, but just absurd enough to be funny.  Funny to all but the ones who get offended, but I desperately tried to not offend.

And when I taught in Asian countries, they had one or two mandatory evening meals with ceremonies for welcome and/or farewell.  I tried to maintain the tact that had already drained from my marrow, maybe the pain rub ointment might retain some of the tact before it oozed from my pores.

When I read this excerpt from Rev. Swindoll’s devotion, I thought of someone that might ask about tact, never having experienced it.  Maybe they miss what is said and think we are talking of tacks, but are tacks still used?  I have looked them up online.  They are sold.  You can get map pins or tacks to mark the places that you have been in your country of origin or around the world, but I don’t see anyone doing that anymore.  You can buy the tools to reupholster furniture using upholstery tacks, but I don’t see that being done much anymore.  A short nail with a wide head is sometimes called a tack.  I once had a magnetized tack hammer because some tacks are too short to hold and then hit with a hammer.  I guess you could… once.  Then your thumb would be too swollen to try it again.

No, Rev. Swindoll does a great job of defining tact.  Do and say everything possible to maintain truth and good relationships.  It is easy to say, and I wonder why we don’t do it.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, so we get sarcastic and tease our friends?  Does that even make sense? Not being tactful might cause more pain than using tacks without the use of a tack hammer.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. atimetoshare.me June 3, 2020 — 10:02 am

    In all my years of performing I would literally sweat bullets before a show. I, like you, am basically an introvert. My entrance to the stage started at an early point in my life, when my confidence was non=existent. I believe it really helped me to grow into a more confident person, even though it wasn’t me on the stage. We all have masks we like to use not only for our protection, but to keep people at bay sometimes. Tact to me is taking time to think before you say something that might be misinterpreted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops, I always thought you wiser than I. I am lucky to not say what I KNOW would be misinterpreted. But I have written about how I could perform a part in a play, but I could not give a speech without shaking. My humor, when speaking, is used to calm me down more than soothing the audience, and sometimes, I don’t need to use it.

      Liked by 1 person

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