- Did you hear what happened to Veronica?”
- “That child is out of control. If I were his mom he would get a good spanking!”
- “Kelly, if you were neat and tidy, like Susan, then I wouldn’t have to work so hard.”
Words. They have the power to change, the power to heal and the power to shape lives. Or, words can be weapons of mass destruction ruining the dreams of men and wrecking relationships. Filtering our conversations through the Word of God can prevent toxic words from seeping out and poisoning those around us.
The comments above represent three deadly, but unfortunately common, uses of the tongue–gossip, criticism and rejection. Learn how to tame your tongue and improve your relationships by using these three filters:
Small Talk: Chit Chat or Gossip?
Small talk is exactly that–small. It’s not discussing major issues or philosophies. It does not seek to teach or inform. Rather it is used to get to know others better or to slowly lead into more meaningful subjects. The danger comes when we allow our small talk to focus on an individual.
Think about it. How often do we spend 15 or 20 minutes praising another person? We don’t. Someone might say, “Veronica is so friendly and helpful.” The other person responds, “She sure is.” And that’s the end of the conversation.
But, try introducing the question: “Did you hear what happened to Veronica?” Of course, someone will say “What happened?” After we recount the story, everyone will give their opinion and say what they think Veronica should have done and give a list of what she did wrong. Then, someone may even add his or her own version of what really happened, which may or may not be true. The rest is history–we’ve entered a major gossip fest and slandered someone’s name just because we were talking SMALL.
The Filter: Focus on people’s positive attributes.
The Word of God tells us “…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8, New Living Translation)
Our speech flows from the thoughts in our heart. It is impossible to talk about something we have not thought about first. As we discipline our minds to focus on good things (in ourselves and others) we will not be tempted to speak negatively about other people.
Remember, gossip stems from insecurity and a non-productive life. When you feel good about yourself and are busy doing God’s will, you do not have the desire or the time to tear someone else down. So, if we find ourselves in the middle of a potentially destructive conversation, we can politely change the subject. If someone says, “Did you hear what happened to Veronica?” You say, “No, but did you see the game last night?” You have just effectively tamed your tongue and saved Veronica’s reputation.
Criticism: Constructive or Destructive?
Criticism is a necessary part of life. In order for us to grow and mature, we must be able to give and receive correction without being offended. However, the problem arises when we attempt to judge someone without knowing all of the facts or offer correction without any genuine concern for the person. This type of criticism, better known as fault-finding, condemns the person instead of empowering them to do better.
The Filter: Speak the truth in love.
The Word of God tells us, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, New Living Translation)
Although the scripture above is taken from the context of pastors, teachers, and apostles, et cetera all performing a special function in order to help a congregation of believers grow in knowledge and understanding, we can take this principle of performing a special function to help others and apply it in our daily lives.
For instance, a mother or grandmother can help younger women with children by offering advice based on their experience. If she sees a woman with an unruly child in the store, she is in the perfect position to show the love of God. Instead of saying, “That child is out of control. If I were his mom he would get a good spanking!” She can kindly offer advice such as, “I understand what you are going through. When my child was that age I used to do ________. Or when all else fails try _________.” Offering constructive feedback usually works best when we are in relationship with the person. However, even a perfect stranger can usually receive words spoken in a loving, non-judgmental tone with grace.
Rejection: Your Plan or God’s Plan?
Wouldn’t life be easy if every one was just like us? Think about it. We would all value the same things, like pizza with extra sauce; political candidates who fight for environmental issues; and planning each day down to the last detail. On second thought–that would be a complete disaster! Who would make sure we ate fresh fruits and vegetables, protected the nation or had some spontaneous fun?
Those strange people who always veer left when we want to steer right bring balance. Their unique strengths and weaknesses are part of God’s plan. Who are we to reject them?
The Filter: Accept God’s plan and purpose for every individual.
The Word of God tells us, “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God-you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration-what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.“ (Psalm 139:13-16, The Message)
When we compare one person to another, someone will always fail. Recognizing the God-given abilities of both people allows everyone to win. Instead of saying, “Kelly, if you were neat and tidy, like Susan, then I wouldn’t have to work so hard,” realize that even Kelly’s disorder serves a purpose. The dishes go undone, but Kelly entertains the children (something you don’t do well) so you and Susan can complete the chores uninterrupted. On second thought–Kelly is pretty terrific. We should tell her.
Look up these scriptures that relate to how we communicate. Use the Scripture Search Tool to look up these scripture in several Bible versions. Be sure to try the New Living Translation, The Message, the NIV, and the Amplified.
- Psalm 19:14; James 1:26; James 3:2; James 3:5-13; 1 Peter 3:10; Matthew 12:36-38; Colossians 4:5-6
- Now, pick your favorite three scriptures from the ones listed above and write them.
- Memorize the scriptures you selected.
- Over the next 30 days journal your progress in controlling your tongue. Write down every instance when you’ve said something you regret in the areas of gossip, criticism and rejection. Pray and ask God for forgiveness in instances where your conversation has harmed someone. Also, ask the people you have harmed for forgiveness.