Here is a subject almost no one today even considers: rehearsed speech. I mean to suggest the unthinkable idea that many people would be much better off today, if they took the time to craft out (in about one paragraph or so) selected speech units that they then memorize and adapt strategically into their lives, for use at occasions and situations for which they were created and easily adapt.
Is there a problem with spontaneous speech? Well, consider the differences between this option and that of the crafted speech units — the first is promotes what is unknown in advance (might get you in trouble or embarrass you if it comes out badly), the other is known to you, and this provides both a measure of predictability, and a measure of CONTROL over your lips. It also gives you control over just how you appear to others — more control over your reputation. “A good name is better than great riches; and to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Yet, “reckless words pierce like a sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Have you ever wondered, if you have read the Gospels, just how Jesus could preach with such apparently great wisdom — both smoothness and profundity? His sermons were crafted from memorized and prepackaged “rabbinical” wisdom units, and adapted this way, or now that, depending on the circumstances.
This explains why many of his sayings so closely match one another between the Gospels, though not always exactly. His wisdom-sayings units, including his famous parables, were likely carefully crafted in advance, probably over a period of years. These were NOT spontaneous, and they probably got edited a number of times before he committed them to memory. Most scholars assume the editing was done AFTER the speech was put into writing (“redaction criticism” prefers this view), and this is certainly possible. But the other option, that he himself carefully edited them beforehand (this assumption is native to what is called “rhetorical criticism”) is also quite plausible — notice that I am here recommending just this practice to my own readers (that they edit their speech-units in advance).
This is why the wisdom of the Jesus of the Gospels was said so to have impressed people, both then and now. But anyone else could the same (or similarly). We all could.
Put bluntly, the collective advice implied by the many speech-wisdom Proverbs amounts to the order to devise and implement a speech-management program to tame the unruly tongue. Rehearsed speech can surely enable this. Here is what you could do to begin your own collection of memorized sayings units, usable for your “lip-management” future of greater wisdom.
First, sit down and begin collecting sayings and, or quotes from various sources that you admire. Keep and ongoing list, perhaps on the desktop of your computer. There are entire volumes of “quotable quotes,” ranging from the academic and profound, to the funny and witty one-liners (e.g. “change is inevitable, except from vending machines”).
I would suggest keeping several different (ongoing) lists, each with its own topic heading “funny stuff,” “intelligent stuff — physics,” intelligent stuff — life,” “witty stuff,” etc Some should take the form of questions. Others should propose brief lessons with a punchline. These should each have a distinct purpose — to motivate people to do good works, to profit other people, to alert them as to something profoundly important they may not be aware of, to make others think more “long-term” about life, to promote good causes, or else healing the psychological wounds, or to promote the physical health of others, or sometimes, simply to make others laugh (e.g. “I have a cousin. He’s ADD-HDTV.” He almost never pays attention; but when he does, it’s crystal clear”).
Here are some things to consider in crafting your new speech life. First, you should be excited that this can greatly improve your life. Second, think of all the wise sayings you know of, and consider using some of these as templates. Get out a thesaurus, and change some of the words over to a synonym of the quote, so that you are not simply repeating the old. Try rearranging the sentence now this way, now that. Adjust it many times, until it fits a style all your own. You get to define who you are by making these wise sayings your own, and using them to shape the way you think and live over time. Here are a few examples I like.
“He who rules his spirit rules the world” — ancient oriental proverb. It says a great deal in few words. I recommend also studying the poets of various cultures for like profound addages that are anything but cheesy. Biblical sayings are fine, so long as you mold and shape them to fit your own way of seeing things. Templates are fine, but don’t be a clone. Show that you have invested real thought. No one respects mere “quoters of clichés badly comprised.” These do not really help and they won’t sound like “you,” but rather like “you trying to be something you are not.” If you want to use Proverbs, employ synonymy, not quoting exactly the botched English (This is a translation anyway, from a biblical tongue, and is often amiss).
Next, think about the package, the way your units are formed. Short parallels (or symmetry) usually make the point last in the minds of hearer most effectively. Recall JFK’s famous saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Note the symmetry here. This has the same form as the biblical “If a man shed’s man’s blood, by man’s hand shall his blood be shed.”
Suppose you are a Christian, and someone at a public event volunteers you to pray out loud. You should have a wise prayer crafted at the ready — or perhaps 5 of them. This gives you confidence and control (poise) under pressure. Questions are also extremely important. You should have at the ready about 20 questions designed to take or maintain control of a conversation. People who wish to bully others often do so by aggressive questioning. Answering with a wise question will often diffuse the whole attempt.
Or even better, just leave and say nothing (you can say something funny under your breath after the fact just for fun [e.g. Let me guess, you killed you hamster with an ax yesterday and blamed it on society]).
Conclusion: wise speech is like good writing. It has to go through many drafts before it is excellent. Excellent speech is waxes profitable, healing, funny, skilled, witty, promotes the good, resists evil, teaches briefly, and says much in few words. If you raise the quality of your speech, you raise the quality of your life. Rehearsed and neatly crystallized, “occasion-oriented” speech-scripts enable this, and work surprisingly well once you have crafted and employed many of them. Eventually, your entire life could be run by a growing treasure-trove of them. This is ideal, but takes time, effort and practice. But it ensures all and only wise speech will radiate from your lips. It will in the estimate of all greatly raise your I.Q. as well. “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver.” As the value of your speech goes up, your net worth will follow over time. “Lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.”
The only other way to improve your speech significantly is to increase your vocabulary. You should work on this also. A wide ranging vocabulary bespeaks a very intelligent mind. Reading broadly will also tend to cause this naturally over time. Otherwise, one could best manage this by systematically (10 words each day) memorizing and using your new words in sentences. You could select these words either either from your own readings, or lift them from an SAT preparation guide, and put them on 3 x 5 cards.
Do not forget to memorize at least 20 funny sayings you could have at the ready and adapt on the spur of the moment to an apparently spontaneous situation. If one uses this advice skillfully, he or she could quickly find that his life could improve markedly and rapidly, by little more than the abundant and skillful use of 3 x 5 cards. Memorization is, I believe, one of the most life-enhancing and lost skills in the modern era. It is an absolutely essential ingredient to a godly, wisdom culture. In a wisdom culture, as with Solomon’s proverbs, people often share a really good insight, perhaps a new saying they are working on, with others so that each can improve the quality of the pool of speech sayings (s) he might be working on.
Again, this practice instills confidence and gives a sense of security about the future and otherwise unruly situations that might arise. Memorizing is many ways the lost key to greater understanding, better education, and skill in life to handle almost any rhetorical or social situation that might arise. The only other two key points here are these: know simply when to say “No,” and when to say nothing at all. If you determine that the person who addresses you is a true fool, say as little as possible or nothing at all. And leave as soon as is reasonable.
The final caveat worth noting for those following my wisdom-hunt journey (and this is a bit awkward) is that the transcendent (original) tongue that God has given us and implicitly commanded us to use is probably early Aramaic (something like spoken Aramaic that earliest used the Proto-Sinatic script for its written form). For now, the closest we can probably manage is the Aramaic of Jesus’ day (or slightly later). To go back earlier, we would need to match this Aramaic vocabulary to the language of the Greek Septuagint and the Alexandrian Greek we find in similar writings of that timeframe. This is just what I propose, but the project make take some time. It is in effect a new language — Alexandrian-Hellenistic Aramaic.
I believe this language will change the world when it (historically) arises.
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers injury — King Solomon