Avoiding the Gaffe

Call it what you will:

  • gaffe
  • an unintentional (or intentional) act
  • blunder
  • faux pas
  • blatant lack of social filter

I have seen even the most poised and proper people put their foot in their mouth when offering wisdom that is tainted. Moi included, although I’m not so poised or proper.

And luckily these “goofs of wisdom” can result in laughter. The comment or commenter becoming the butt of a joke. And they are funny. Funny that is, until it hits a nerve, or the “goof” or “gaffe” of wisdom comes hurdling our way.

Funny that is until we make the “gaffe” in wisdom ourselves, and damage an important relationship.

Serious gaffes can take a long time to repair.

It happened to me recently. This time I was the receiver (thankfully not the giver). I was being transparent and honest within a group. Puzzled at life and circumstances. When suddenly one person in the group decided to sprinkle their wisdom on my life, my circumstances.

You could feel the air rush out of the room. The silent gasps and darting eyes said it all. I’d just been doused with unwarranted, ill-stated, wisdom. Trying to remain cool and collected, I quickly swept the comment under the rug and proceeded as if nothing happened.

And then I sat on it that day

And sat some more, that week.

I wondered in silent petition, “Is it my place to say anything to the person?”

And then I sat some more the following week (because I didn’t want to make a gaffe over someone else’s gaffe).

Two weeks had gone by. FINALLY I’d come across an answer, some advice that put me at ease over the matter.

This advice I found, it’s old. I mean REALLY old—old ancient solid proven self-help wisdom and advice.

It amazes me that what was written so long ago is still dead-on correct. Truth be told, in some ways we haven’t gotten much smarter over the centuries. Because wisdom is wisdom. Widsom don’t change over time. It is constant, stoic, unchanged, and indifferent to its receiver.

This found wisdom was tightly packed into a single sentence—but when broken down became an amazing check list to run through before offering someone else your wise (or not so wise) advice.

The check list consists of eight points—acid-tests—for wisdom. Does that seem like a lot? I suppose it is—but advice you give (or get) should be rock solid right?


Advice you give should be something you can stand behind—like ancient wisdom—it should be constant, stoic, and unchanging. And if you put this type of care into what you tell others—especially when the hard conversations need to take place—then this list will save your derriere every time. You’ll demonstrate how much you care about the other person, and (BONUS HERE) you’ll gain their trust and strengthen the relationship.

Honestly, there’s nothing to lose except for the fact that you won’t be able to pop off untested and unchecked responses (aka: advice, wisdom). Without further ado, the eight points:

Wisdom offered should be:

#1 PURE: not mixed with other intentions. The advice you give is for them. It’s not about you. How smart you are. Or how spiritually evolved you’ve become. And it’s not about who you know. It’s pure.

#2 PEACE-LOVING: meaning it avoids argument or disagreement. It brings relationships together or into harmony and balance instead of chaos and discord.

#3 CONSIDERATE:  it does not seek to harm or inconvenience. It is gentle and just. It takes into account mercy and grace.

#4 SUBMISSIVE: hold on, don’t leave here yet! Yes this word has become warped over time, but in correct use it simply means to be gentle and meek. It means your ego is not part of the advice. It’s not about you overpowering them. In true wisdom, the teacher is also the student—the student is the teacher. Yes, it is a bit zen-ish.

#5 FULL OF MERCY: it’s compassionate and forgiving for trespasses. If you or someone you care about was deeply offended by the person you are giving wise advice to—then by all means triple check yourself on this point. Have mercy. Always.

#6 FRUITFUL: simply put—your advice should have every opportunity to produce good results in the receiver.

#7 IMPARTIAL: it’s that constant, stoic, unchanged, and indifferent part of the equation. It should treat all persons equal. It should be wisdom that stands the test of time. Not just the moment or circumstance.

….and lastly

#8 SINCERE: the wise advice should be transparent and true. Free from any deceit or pretense.

Get Your Own Printable CheckList Here

Okay, I know that is a huge long list. But it’s rock solid. And maybe you can’t use it all the time, but when it comes to huge heavy important talks…go here. Use this.

The author of this advice, James, is someone I’ve come to trust. He was the older of his famous half-brother. James was a skeptic of his radical sibling, who caused a revolution many many centuries ago. But in the end, James came to realize his brother was right, and not so crazy after all. When James’s brother left his earthly work, James carried on the revolution. His brother was none other than Jesus.

The actual quote: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  James 3:17

If you’ve never read James’ work…consider reading it. It’s straight-forward, solid, constant, stoic, and unchanged. It’s as if the entire short 5-chapter book was written via these eight points in avoiding the gaffe.

© 2009-2012 Sherry Meneley All Rights Reserved
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9 thoughts on “Avoiding the Gaffe

  1. *gasp* so guilty of unwarranted advice and/or wisdom. I’m learning though. My heart always means well…but then again…it’s. Not. About. Me…So good. Thank you for your wisdom 😉 #wellreceived

  2. Okay… Awkward. In a good way though. Now rather than firing off a thought or comment I am checking and triple checking! Good advice for I think we all fall foul of that ailment of “foot-in-mouth” disease. (I know I sure do!)
    Another card for my desk…
    Keep on challenging friend.

    • Ya know, truth be told…I’m often writing my own “ah-ha”s. If an onlooker benefits, that’s just a huge bonus. So yeah, it’s on my desk too. Thanks again Jer!

  3. Yep, definitely a good one! Like I said – worth art journaling so it’s always at my fingertips to keep referring back to. And thanks for your expanded explanation of each – I need all the help I can get!

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