by Charles R. Swindoll
Wisely labeled "the saving virtue," tact graces life like fragrance graces a rose. One whiff erases any memory of the thorns. It's remarkable how peaceful and pleasant tact 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!
Remember the teacher who lacked tact? Each morning you wondered if that was the day you'd be singled out and embarrassed by some public put-down. Remember the boss who lacked tact? You never knew if he ever understood you or considered you to be a valuable person. And who could forget that tactless physician? You weren't a human being; you were Case Number thirty-six.
But the classic example of tactless humanity, I'm ashamed to declare, is the abrasive Christian (so-called) who feels it his or her calling to fight for the truth with little or no regard for the other fella's feelings. Of course, this is supposedly done in the name of the Lord—"to do anything less would be compromise and counterfeit."
This person's favorite modus operandi is either to overlook or openly demean others. Unfortunately, some preachers are the greatest offenders. They seem to delight in developing a devastating pulpit that scourges rather than encourages, that blasts rather than builds.
"The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer," writes Solomon. "A gentle answer turns away wrath," said he. "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable," he adds. "The tongue of the wise brings healing," and "A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!" (see Prov. 15:28, 1, 2; 12:18; 15:23).
No facts need be subtracted when tact is added, by the way. Years ago, I used to sell shoes. My seasoned employer, with a twinkle in his eye, instructed me never to say, "Lady, your foot is too big for this shoe!" I was taught to say, instead, "I'm sorry, but this shoe is just a little too small for your foot." Both statements expressed the facts, but one was insulting while the other was tactful.
It didn't shrink her foot, but it did save her face . . . and that's what tact is all about.
Look for an opportunity today to bring healing through a tactful answer.