Written by: Amy Dalke
I wish I naturally had the ability to keep my mouth shut.
What I mean is, if I ever do restrain my words, it’s not my doing. God gets all the credit. Because my natural tendency is to use my mouth like a whip, or a grenade, or in the least, like a well-shaken can of Diet Coke that spills out the unfiltered thoughts in my head.
Like those times I tear someone down with words behind their back.
Like those times I’m straight out ugly to their face.
And those times I have a handful of envy, so I cut them down to make me feel better…
And much like those times I lose my grip with a certain 8 year old, and speak at a volume often considered as yelling. (Although this verse doesn’t specifically address anger, I dare say that when my voice reaches a certain notch on the sound chart, I’m probably not saying words that are considered a gift to the receiver.)
“Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, or cut them out.” -Colossians 4:6 MSG
It’s the “bring-out-the-best-in-others-in-conversation” part that gets me.
Those words sting…mainly because my passive-aggressive comments aren’t meant to offer compliments.
My husband can confirm that my words can rip at the seams of another’s spirit, rather than build up their confidence. I may or may not have done that this weekend. (But it might have been during Luke’s baseball tournament, in the middle of an intense inning.) (Little League Parent Stress is for real, friends.) (I know, I know, still not cool, and definitely not on my highlight reel of kindness.)
“The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” -Proverbs 15:28 NLT
Solomon would have included “think carefully before posting your status, writing that email, or sending that text” if he were born into the iPhone era.
You may be one of those people who always thinks before they speak. I’m usually not.
Well…perhaps we should, given that Solomon also tells us that our positive or negative words can bring life or death to the hearer (see Proverbs 18:21). Which, incidentally, would include those times we talk to ourselves.
Here’s what I see in these verses:
- We can speak words without thinking first about the benefit or insult they bring to the receiver.
- We can speak dagger-like words that we purposefully aim to cut into the soul of the hearer.
- We can intentionally speak words that are meant to build up, bring out the best in, and encourage the one who receives them.
How often do we go into conversation with our eye on the goal of bringing out the best in the other person?
It’s safe to say that for me personally, encouragement is likely offered more often as a default or secondary benefit more than an intent.
Along a similar line, there are many times our words can cut unintentionally, simply because we didn’t think about the result before they rolled out of our mouth. Or maybe it’s not so much that they were unintentional, but if we would have considered them through the lens of grace, we may have chosen not to say them at all.
I bet our lives would be radically changed if we measured our words with more caution, and decided to use them to bring out the best in those on the receiving end.
Think about it: the average woman speaks 20,000 words per day, and the average man speaks 13,000. (No comment from the male gallery.) So if we are tossing out 13,000-20,000 words every day of our lives, wouldn’t it be wise to be purposeful about their impact?
I’m pretty sure if we determined to carefully evaluate the weight of our words, the careless ones would decrease. And (hopefully) the hurtful ones would also become less and less.
Better still, what if our intentional goal were to deliberately use words to cheer, motivate, inspire, strengthen, or refresh others?
I’m not delusional; no one who hits a perfect mark on loving speech 100% of the time. And we can give our best effort, but if the Holy Spirit isn’t the governing source, then we’ll fail more often than we succeed.
So I dare you to try something this week:
- Think before you speak.
- Measure the impact of your words.
- Decide to bring out the best of others in conversation.
- Spare others, by just keeping a lid on the ugly.
Here’s a reminder you can print out and carry around with you this week. It could possibly be a game-changer.
I’ll be on the first row of your cheering section…