Whoa! Where did that come from?
Has it ever happened to you? Sometimes words come out of our mouths with little to no thought behind them. This has definitely happened to me, especially when I’m making an effort to be direct and deliver a clear message to someone, my words aren’t as gentle as they should be. God has been showing me the power of words through Scripture and how their misuse can be detrimental to others.
Many years ago, I read a passage in James that has really resonated with me. James 3:5 describes how even though our tongues are such a small part of our body, it is capable of having big effects. We are exhorted to control our tongues, for with it we can bless and curse others (James 3:9). Over the years, at times when I thought I had a handle on my tongue, something horrible flies out of my mouth and God reminds me that He is still at work in this area of my life.
There have also been occasions in the flesh when I willingly want to use my words to tear someone down, and thankfully God’s plans triumph over my desires. Recently, I was having a conversation with someone, and while my intent was to be clear about where I stood on the matter we were discussing, God showed me a more loving approach midway through our conversation. Somewhere along the road to deliver this message, I intended to be blunt and harsh because my heart was full of malice and vengefulness. I felt like a villain out of David’s Psalm: “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart” (Psalm 55:21). I wanted my words to convey anger, while at the same time slashing through someone else.
I’m so grateful that God is not like me. He is gentle (Matthew 11:29) and He is love (1 John 4:8). God miraculously showed up in the middle of this conversation as I was responding and made my words much softer than I originally intended. After I was done talking, I couldn’t help but thank Him for showing up; it was as if He had spoken through me.
The Lord used that exchange to build this person up even when my sinful heart wanted otherwise. I’m glad that while I had every intention to tear someone down, God changed my heart. This is just one example of how He fulfills His word in Ephesians 4:29, when Paul describes our speech as “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
What we can do
Sometimes there is no warning as to when you might have a difficult conversation. However, there are times when you can anticipate a tricky subject.
If you find yourself in the former, continuously pray as David prayed in Psalm 39:1: “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.’” Pray that the Lord transforms your speech, whether it’s gossiping or using profanity. Paul encourages us to use our words to be “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
If you are in the latter, pray that you are able to respond and not react. (This one is particularly tough for me!) Ecclesiates 5:2 says, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” Take time to pray and think about the situation. Quickly pray an SOS like, Lord, take control of my mouth and render my heart pure. Let me use my words to bless and encourage others.
Another thing I try to do is ask questions and listen. This gives me ample time to respond in a more gracious way, while also giving me more insight as to what the other person is thinking (Proverbs 15:23). It is so easy to run wild with our thoughts without having the bigger picture of what a situation entails.
What are some strategies you use to communicate with others in a God honoring way?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meagan is Jersey girl doing life in New York City, as a Kindergarten teacher. She recently got married to her best friend and looks forward to their new life together. Meagan loves the Lord and serves and worships at a church plant. During her spare time she likes to read, travel, and eat good food.