The Doctrine of Subtle Hints

8 Apr

Years ago, I had a friend at Bible study who got on with me like a house on fire the minute we first met.  We both loved the Lord and His Word, and read prodigiously.  So our conversations could go for hours, with both of us bubbling away . . .

As such things go in a Navy town, time came for her husband to accept a transfer to the West Coast.  When she first moved, we continued our bubbling conversations on the phone, along with sending each other long letters full of praise to God, replete with Scripture references.  We had a friendship that rejoiced the heart.

That was in the days immediately preceding email, so we did what we had to do.  Somewhere in there, we both got computers and started transitioning over to electronic communications that did not take three or four days to cover the distance between us.  

Somewhere in there, we also created expectations, based on who we are as people, and forgot to check them with each other.

She is a “one best friend at a time” type of person.  I tend to have a collection of close-in friends, with two or three of them getting the majority of my time (the faces rotate a bit).

So, as I continued holding my friend in my heart as one of my best friends, she moved from being extremely lonely upon arrival at the new duty station to meeting her new best friend out there.  

And therein lies the rub . . .

We ended up not talking about expectations until it was far too late and the top blew off of our friendship for quite some time.  In fact, it never went back to what it had been.  

When we were discussing this later, my godly friend used the line, “I thought I was giving you enough subtle hints that I didn’t want to have weekly phone calls and letters anymore.”  To which I did not reply (because I didn’t think of the line till later), “Where is the doctrine of subtle hints found in the Bible?”

The answer is, it is not.  I believe we save a lot of hurt feelings between people when we do not rely on subtle hints to take care of important emotional tasks for us.

It is far less hurtful to just tell someone, “Hey, I’m kind of a serial best friend and I now have the emotional support I need at our new duty station, so I am going to be dwindling off in my communication.”  Or whatever the appropriate statement would be for any given relationship.

People can deal with what they know.  Subtle hints almost always carry a question mark (“what is she really trying to say?”).  The more we try to understand them, the more we usually get them wrong.  At least some of us do.  

And sometimes there is that most cruel statement of all (not used in my situation but heard elsewhere), “Can’t you take a hint?”  That statement not only refers to a non-existent doctrine of subtle hints, but blames the person who is the recipient for not being able to decode them!

The Lord seems to encourage clear communication in His Word, as far as it lies within us.

People can usually deal with that far better! 

James 5:12, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”

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