How to Win People Over

Dear Reader,

I wanted to share with you a couple of passages that struck me from Frank Boreham’s book Faces in the Fire. They are on slightly different topics, and actually in some ways are saying opposite things, but they both have to do with how we can manage to reach people.

Elucidating on “The Word became flesh,” Boreham talks about the necessity of putting a human presence behind our message. I do not want to downplay the power of God’s Word which we are told is sharper than a two-edged sword, for certainly it alone has brought men to repentance and faith all on its own, but in our ordinary lives I think we do best in winning those around us when our lives show forth the Word we preach. Here is how Boreham puts it:

“Generally speaking, you cannot make a man a Christian by giving him a Bible or posting him a tract. The New Testament lays it down quite clearly that the Christian man must accompany the Christian message. The Word must be presented in its proper human setting. Our missionaries all over the planet tell of the resistless influence exerted by gracious Christian homes, and by holy Christian lives, in winning idolaters from superstition. ” (pp. 270-71)

In the second passage, Boreham speaks not of winning over unbelievers but of successfully confronting a brother who is in sin. This is never an easy thing to do and there can be lots of emotions on either side. He recommends in this case, not necessarily a direct face to face confrontation, but a written letter is oftentimes the best approach:

“But if I go to that young man and abruptly introduce the matter to him, I at once put him in a false position, and greatly imperil my chance of success. We are face to face; I have spoken to him, and he, in common decency, must speak to me. It would be a thousand times better if, having opened my heart to him, I could withdraw before he uttered a single word. But as it is, I have forced him into a position in which he must say something. His judgement is not ripe, his mind is not made up, the whole subject is new to him, and yet my indiscretion has placed him in such a position that he is compelled to commit himself. He must say something without due consideration; I stand there like a highway robber, with my pistol pointed at his brow, and he must give me words immediately;  . . .  He speaks; and however he may guard his utterance, his final decision will inevitably be compromised by those hasty and immature sentences.

. . . I meant to do him good, and I have done him incalculable harm . . .

Now see how much better the postman manages the matter. I sit down at my desk and write exactly what I want to say . . . I pause to consider the exact word that I wish to employ . . . And the advantages that come to me in inditing the letter are shared by him in receiving it. He is alone, and therefore entirely himself. He is not disconcerted by the presence of an interviewer. He owes nothing to etiquette or ceremony. . . . If he is vexed at my intrusion into his private affairs, he has time to recover from his displeasure and to reflect that I am moved entirely by a desire for his welfare . . .” (pp.117-19)

Boreham has quite a bit more to say on the virtues of letter-writing, both in this particular case where one must confront a friend, and in general. It really makes me long for the revival this now hardly used practice. E-mail with its immediacy does not seem to engender the same thought and careful choosing of words. Isn’t it funny how we always say “you can’t tell one’s tone in e-mail; it leads to misunderstandings” but this is never said of letters? Now more than ever a letter says that the sender has taken time and composed their thoughts whereas an e-mail so often says “I don’t have time for you.” An e-mail gets lost in the inbox; a letter, even admist piles of junk mail, is an event. It is, as Boreham goes on to say, something to be savored and not rushed through.


One response to this post.

  1. This is so timely. I have always found it easier to write to my husband than to sit him down and talk to him, but lately I have been questioning if this means there is something wrong with me. These quotes express so beautifully why I prefer for our serious talks to occur via letter.


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