2 "Not" Words
Throughout this month we have looked at the word discreet through several different lenses. The first Titus 2 blog in November looked at the idea of being a safe and protective person to be around, which includes becoming a person who desires to use our words and actions to bring healing, not hurt, to others. As believers in Christ, we are to help people become whole.
Building people up and helping them to heal from the inside out requires becoming more sensitive to others, which is what we observed about discreet during the second week. Two words capture that thought: circumspect and tactful. Possessing these two qualities causes us to moderate the intensity and tone we use when speaking our thoughts and opinions—something we women need to work at developing. We need to think about how our words and actions affect those around us.
Considering how we affect others led to two more facets of discretion: being prudent and judicious, the two words we looked at last week. The judgments we make, the words we choose, and the actions we decide to take are tempered by the awareness of future consequences. We don't—or shouldn't—give in to the heat of the emotional moment and erroneously think that it won't harm our relationships. People are not rubber balls; they don't bounce. If we continue to say whatever we think or to let our emotions fly, we will find that those around us will become wary in our presence. Although people in general—and especially children—have an amazing resilience, they will begin to back off if we don't develop prudence and use a judicious sense of timing and tone and choice of words, reining in all we might be feeling or might want to say.
As the month of November comes to a close, I will conclude my study of what it means to be discreet—at least for now—with two more words that came up several times in various definitions. Both of these are negative words that reveal what we need to avoid as we grow in discretion: unobtrusive and unostentatious. A discreet person is careful about what they put out to the public. There are some things that we should be politely and carefully private about. In this day and age of social media, this aspect of discretion is needed more than ever.
Along this same line, a discreet person keeps a low profile and doesn't try to show off or need to be noticed. There's a certain self-possession in this understanding of the word as well as an awareness of what's appropriate for a given time or place. Here are some synonyms that help to fill out the meaning: subdued, inconspicuous, subtle, low-key, understated, restrained, intentionally unobtrusive. It reminds me on I Peter 3:3-4: "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." A woman of discretion is beautiful and precious in God's eyes. Could that be because it is so rare? It is generally not our natural bent; we like to be noticed.
Paul gives a similar exhortation to women in I Timothy 2:9: [I desire] that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation (discretion), not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." God's Word is not telling us that we can't or shouldn't be beautiful on the outside, but that we should be moderate and not overdo it—not always trying to draw attention to ourselves. Our security and sense of well-being is to come from within. And that inner confidence with Christ enables us to be discreet.
These eight words give us a lot to reflect on and pray over: safe, protective, circumspect, tactful, prudent, judicious, not ostentatious, not obtrusive. And that doesn't even unpack all that is wrapped up in the one word, discreet. However, we'll save the rest for another time and move on next week to the word chaste, which in many ways is like a twin to discretion. They help to reflect and define each other, though they are also distinct.
This month as I've studied about, written on, and prayed over this topic of being a discreet woman, God has so graciously revealed to me some areas where I have lacked discretion. Oh, it is wonderful to know the God of grace who not only has taken us in with all our flaws, shortcomings, sins, and blindspots, but has also promised to "perfect that which concerns me," the verse my daughter wrote on our bathroom mirror for the month (Psalm 138:8). He will complete what He has begun (Philippians 1:6) in conforming us to the blessed image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Let us never stop praying for the lovely quality of discretion to be deeply rooted in our lives and fully evident to those around us.