I love a clever come back. I respect those people who, in the heat of the moment, have the mental agility and verbal acuity to say just the right thing at the right time. They make their point with razor sharp wit and leave their subject languishing in the wake of their comment.
I’m not that guy, though at times I wish I could be. I have a friend who downloaded pages of one-liners about your mother just to be prepared. His son found it. The school says he used it well. Detention will last a week.
Winston Churchill was great at this. He was once confronted in public by an overly zealous women, “If you were my husband I would give you poison!” She shouted indignantly. Churchill calmly responded, “If I were your husband…I would take it.”
Mental agility and verbal acuity – the ability to think on your feet and say what you thought. It’s a talent that can be as priceless as perilous.
I also admire deep thinkers. They may be slow to speak, but don’t mistake their silence for ignorance. C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world will satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Soak on that for a bit.
Deep thoughts often come from the most unlikely of places and their value is difficult to describe. Mental agility, mental depth, verbal acuity – are these natural talents, or skills that can be acquired?
I believe they are both.
- Mental agility is learned through lively conversation.
- Mental depth is learned through reading widely and writing regularly.
Conversation is quick, reading and writing is slow. Conversation helps you think fast. Writing helps you think deep. You are likely bent in such a way that you’re better at one or the other. It doesn’t matter. Either can be learned.
Do you struggle with mental agility? Talk with more people about more topics. Get into a good argument – not the kinds that damage relationships, but the kind that helps you think more clearly. Conversations are the practice field where mental agility and verbal acuity are tried, tested and proved.
Do you struggle with mental depth? Listen more. Read more. Write more. The process of writing requires a different kind of thinking than the process of talking. Take the time to read something and write something everyday. It doesn’t take much. Over time you’ll find that you think more clearly and your thoughts will have greater value.
Scripture teaches that a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Take time to sharpen your mind and sharpen your words. In James 3:1-12 we’re told the words we think and say set the course for our life like the rudder of a ship. If we can control our words we can influence our thoughts and reshape the direction of our lives.