Throughout our lives, we come across many people and a lifetime of stories to tell about ourselves and others. It is natural for us to want to discuss those we know well, experiences, strangers, circumstances, and anything and everything in between. But when it comes to the way we speak about others and to others, we must make sure we go about it in the most appropriate way. By inventing stories, filling in the gaps, assuming, slandering, spreading the juicy details, speaking negatively about someone, being hypocritical, or doing anything of the like, we are making ourselves enemies--not only of other people, but of the Almighty God!
What is the appropriate way, you ask? As we learn more about Christ and God’s word, we come across verses that can help guide us to the appropriate way to speak. First, the Bible teaches us to be slow to speak, or in other words, to think before we speak. We need to think about the motivation or reason for bringing up others and for the words coming out of our mouth. It is okay to be slow to respond or to communicate that we need more time to think. What is our motivation? (Is it to laugh, to hurt, to express an emotion, or something else?) If our motivation can lead to negative consequences for us or others in any way, then we must gather our thoughts for a better way.
Next, we are taught that our words should be gracious and soft. We need to ask ourselves these questions: “Is what I am saying positive or negative?” If it is positive, then we should communicate ourselves in a clear, understandable manner. If our speech is negative, we need to consider whether we are being offensive and if our words are an opinion or a fact. In an offensive case, we should not say it in order to not provoke anger or hostility. “I am only joking” is not a valid excuse. If we personally reflect on those moments we have used this phrase then I am sure we would take it back. We must soften our words or turn the negative into a positive light. What do we have to lose?
Lastly, we are to be slow to anger. We have all had times where we have spoken too quickly and hurt someone else. If we find ourselves in this situation we need to apologize, ask for forgiveness, accept the consequences, pray, and read our Bible for future guidance. We have also had those moments where we spoke out of anger and it led to more hostility or embarrassment for us. The first thought in our mind should be if anyone was hurt. If no one was hurt, then why are we so upset? If someone was hurt, are our actions conveying the worry and concern we should have?
There is a reason why we are taught that our words carry weight and can be a destructive fire or a blessed light. We should consider what we are bringing to the table when we speak and what we are adding to a conversation. As it says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
Inspired by: Matthew 12:36; Proverbs 10:29; James 3; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:4; Proverbs 17:28; Psalm 14:13; James 1:19, 26; Proverbs 12:18; 1 Peter 3:9-11