Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 36

Wisdom Knows “Tentative.”

Have you ever boldly espoused your opinion, only to realize that you were in fact wrong? Or, know someone who does this often?

Wyndham has a phrase for this practice—“Often wrong, but never in doubt!”

I find this happens most often in opinion and memory matters with statements such as:

I absolutely know I left this on your desk.

We turn right here. I’m sure.

I have looked there. It is not there.

You just need to let your child cry. They will definitely go to sleep.

You need to not let them cry. They won’t go to sleep.

If you take this supplement, it will cure you. It does this, and this, and this…

If you eat this, it will kill you.

 You may have heard (or said) all of the above, spoken with absolute surety.

There’s a Scripture for this practice:

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

In contrast, a wise person seeks to understand, and is prudent in airing his/her opinions.

There are things to which we should hold with absolute conviction. Truths about God and his word are at the top of this list. For these, we must be bold and unapologetic—even when these truths are in opposition to the culture of our world, which they are.

However, in opinions (and even our memory which we can view as factual) Wyndham has taught me the value of speaking tentatively. We must be calm to be tentative. We must seek understanding to be tentative. We must be humble to be tentative. And we must be eager to keep peace in our relationships to be tentative. Yet, often we (I) can get “riled up,” sure of what we (I) think, and sure that our (my) memory is rock solid correct.

I think of this word, “tentative,” often in my conversations. This nugget of wisdom has served me well. Wyndham and I have striven to implement this in our conversations for years. To remind us, we decided many years ago to exercise a habit that reminds us that we are not always right. When we discover we are wrong in something we have confidently stated we say (yes, out loud) to each other, “I was wrong and you were right.” It’s been a good practice.

Let me define tentativeness by rewording the above statements.

I absolutely know I left this on your desk.

With tentativeness, this can be reworded: I may not remember this accurately, but I have remembrance of leaving this on your desk

We turn right here. I’m sure.

Tentative: I think we turn right here.

I have looked there. It is not there.

Tentative: I looked once, but didn’t find it. I can try again.

You just need to let your child cry. They will definitely go to sleep.

Tentative: I’ve found at times it has worked for me to let my baby “cry it out” to go to sleep.

You need to not let them cry. They won’t go to sleep.

Tentative: You may find this to work or not, but for me my baby got more worked up the longer he/she cried. This is what helped me…

If you take this supplement, it will cure you. It does this, and this, and this, and this….

Tentative: I’m sure you have heard many opinions, but this supplement has helped me and I’m excited about it. Let me know if you want to know more.

If you eat this, it will kill you.

Tentative: I don’t want to intrude, but I read some research that troubled me. I made this choice because of these reasons. I won’t be pushy, but I can send you some information if you would like it.

Without tentativeness, Wyndham’s wise phrase too often applies.

“Often wrong, but never in doubt.”

The Scriptures teach in James 4:6b
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Truth is, people also oppose the proud, but give grace to the humble.

May we never doubt what is true, but speak (with tentativeness) to gain understanding in other matters.



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  1. Christie Lamb

    So very true! With my health declining this year, I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to my memory. I don’t think my Mom has ever heard me say “I’m mistaken [or I mispoke], you are right” so many times in my whole life as she has now. It definitely builds up her confidence and keeps me humble in more ways than one.

    • jeanieshaw

      Love you and keep praying for you. So grateful for your faithful perseverance. I know it must be so hard but you are a faithful woman.

  2. Jennifer Lambert

    Jeanie, I look forward to the amazing book (volumes) these posts will become. Thank you, thank you!! Sending love and prayers.

  3. Cynthia

    Wise words! I really needed this!

  4. Cynthia

    Wise words. I really needed this!

  5. Tammy

    So wise! So helpful! Thank you for posting!


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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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