How You Should Talk

There are two ways you can spin any situation: for the positive or for the negative. You can either complain that roses have thorns or rejoice that thorns have roses. You can view dandelion seeds as a weed or a wish. You can either focus on what’s tearing you apart or what’s holding you together.

It’s all about perspective.

Imagine a mother and her son who notice a homeless person. In scenario A, the mother tells her son, “If you do not study, you will end up like him.” In scenario B, the mother tells her son, “If you study well, you will be able to make a better world for him.” Which child is going to feel wholesome encouragement to make a change for good?

Our words have power like that: to build up or tear down, to lift a face toward the light or hold its gaze on all that is broken. Every time we have an opportunity to speak, we have a choice about how our words will lead those who hear (granted that no miscommunication occurs in the transaction). Will we encourage or discourage one toward Christ-likeness?

There are also times when we should keep our mouths shut, like when we are angry, should listen, or are not as informed as we could be. You should never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter. We must be careful with our words. Once they are said, they are not easily forgotten and can only be forgiven.

If your words will demean, make light of a serious matter, or misconvey the truth, you should hold your tongue. As Thumper so classically said in Disney’s Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuffin’ at all.”

But the solution is not to just be quiet all the time. Use your words to be kind to people.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

-Ephesians 4:29

Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Anyone can point out the downsides of a situation. That perspective comes naturally to us as fallen human beings. It is easy to be a Debbie Downer, so we must forever be striving to find the gold in someone’s dirt or the silver lining of a dark cloud.

We will naturally become aware of and notice another’s weaknesses, so we must show them their strengths— as an exercise for us and encouragement for them (Proverbs 16:24). We must build someone up, put their insecurities to sleep, and remind them of their worth. We must be light in a too often dim world.

As Philippians 4:8 says, we must focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and so on. For our personal well-being, yes, but also to be a testimony to a world that dismisses its Creator. Unbelievers will notice a stark contrast in our speech if we do not conform to the culture’s negative waves, and it will shed light on another way.

“Let my words be life / Let my words be truth / I don’t wanna say a word / Unless it points the world back to you”

-Hawk Nelson, “Words”

We must forever be praying for and consciously choosing words that express the glory of our Savior and His love for the lost. We must live and speak in a way that those who know us but don’t know God come to know God because they know us.

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