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Fill in the Blanks

Ever notice how a person in a group of people will always fill up the air with their talking? As if there is zero tolerance for silence. As if there is some failure in pausing for a moment. As if everyone else will always want to hear what s/he has to say. As if the blank space in the conversation needs to be filled. Certainly, some may consider it a social grace while others might find it annoying. But surely, we all know someone who has “the gift of gab.”

Perhaps we also know someone we might describe as being “full of piss and vinegar,” or “spit” if you prefer. Curious expression! It first appeared in print in a John Steinbeck novel sometime around 1936. It refers to a person who is especially disposed to aggression, someone who always seems ready to pick a fight. That eagerness virtually defines the person. Much in the same way we speak of people as being full of vitriol, a term borrowed from chemistry which identifies a substance that is caustic or acidic. We love our labeling, don’t we?

Let’s flip the spotlight around, shall we? When others see us, hear us, experience us, how would they fill in the blank? He’s full of                           . She’s filled with                       . What words might best describe us? Which labels could easily be applied to us? Are we full of nervous energy? Packed with venom? Or filled with grace? Brimming with joy? As we amble about on earth, what exactly do we exude in our speech and actions and demeanor? Go ahead. Venture a guess about how others might fill in the blank!

In many ways, we go through life much like Silly Putty. We pick up attitudes and customs from the culture around us. Our speech patterns and expressions mirror those of our families and friends. We conform to the social standards of the communities in which we live. We are formed by the media that informs us. Our heads and hearts get to be crowded places because of all we take in! No doubt some of what we take in seeps out. A steady diet of negative criticism of               [fill in the blank with likely suspects] will undoubtedly taint how we think and what we say.  Similarly, regular exposure to people emanating kindness, generosity, respectfulness, and the like will likely infiltrate our thoughts and behavior. And if ever we need help filling in the blanks, we can always turn to Galatians 5:19-23 in the New Testament of a Bible. Go ahead. Google it and see what spills off the screen!

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