“The Five Percent That We Miss”

Pastor Idleman really gets at the truth with his comments about perceiving the truth in life.

We want relationships with people who will tell us the truth but we only believe 95% of what they say.  That last 5% we just miss.

How does this relate?  Well, we find ourselves in situations where we are really in trouble but we just don’t see it.  We rationalize, we justify, we excuse ourselves, we blame others–you know the stuff we do to keep from taking blame.

Then that person who cares for us tells us 100% of the truth, the unvarnished view of our behavior.

If you excuse me, I want to tell you a story that I used over the years when I was teaching public speaking.  The point of the story is that it is important to know your audience and give them a message that they can relate to, appreciate and understand.  To do that you have to get over yourself and think like the audience as much as you possibly can.  Too often we only think of our own interests and worry about our own image; to be a successful public speaker, the needs of the audience should come first.

Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address; a speaker who thought about his audience.

The dedication of this National Cemetery at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863 was a big deal so the President had to attend, but Abraham Lincoln also knew that he was not the first speaker of the day.  Yes he was the President but a popular orator named Edward Everett was chosen to speak before Lincoln.  This was 1863, a time long ago when long attention spans existed.  People could listen to long speeches; in fact, long orations were the norm.  Lincoln knew Everett was going to “go long.”  Lincoln also knew his popularity was not so great in 1863.  The Civil War had lasted far too long and the North was indeed war-weary.  His re-election was not a foregone conclusion.  The presentation was outdoors.  This was the day before amplification and approximately 15,000 people were in attendance, standing around the speakers, not many of them seated.  Lincoln was aware that they could wander off the premises if he did not strike the right note.

What did he do?  Well, he listened to 100% of the truth.  He needed to be short and sweet.  As I told my classes over the years, it is important from time to time to remember three golden speaking rules;  stand up, speak up and shut up.  Lincoln did not need to listen to his handlers, his advisors, his speech writers.  He knew he needed to listen to the truth.

What if he had not accepted the whole truth that day?  He would have faced a crowd that had just listened to a rousing 2 hour speech, delivered by a learned person with an exciting, melodious voice.  He would have faced a crowd that was not in love with their President [so common for Americans not to love their President].  He would have faced a crowd that was standing outdoors trying to hear a man with a shrill Kentucky accent.  Maybe they would have stayed for his long speech; maybe they would have walked away.

When I taught speaking, I would ask class members to tell me the author and title of this speech.  I would read the first sentence.  “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature.”

No one knew it. [Edward Everett, The “Other” Gettysburg Address].

Then I would read the first sentence of the other speech.

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Hands would go up in the first three or four words and most students knew the author, the title of the speech and some knew some of the circumstances.

Lincoln hit a home run with his little 272 word speech.  How did he do it?  I contend he got over himself and he paid attention to that “five percent that we miss”.

The truth.

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