Remember that old nursery rhyme we shouted on the playground when we were kids?
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!
What were we thinking? Sure, sticks and stones can break bones, but bones heal. Words can leave wounds that last for decades and scars that last forever.
God knows both the destructive capability and healing power of words.
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, ESV
These words, written by Paul to the Christians in Ephesus, challenge me. I tend to open my mouth and allow words out before I consider their effect. But I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. “Speech” seems to be a difficult area for many Christian women.
I believe one reason we struggle with speaking only words that build up others is our own insecurities. We sometimes feel so bad about ourselves we think we will feel better if we bring someone else down – even if we do this subconsciously. But it doesn’t help. We usually just end up feeling worse about ourselves.
I don’t want to tear down and hurt others with my words. I want to encourage, build up, and help. What about you?
Whether we initiate conversation or respond to someone else we should always use words that communicate grace to the hearer. Easier said than done. Here are 9 tips to help us speak words of grace:
- Remember the grace God has freely given us.
- Remember that God will hold us accountable for every word spoken (Matthew 12:33-37).
- Refuse to use “corrupt” speech. This is not simply four-letter words, but words that wound, discourage, or tear down.
- Commit to using “good” words – kind and gracious words that build up and encourage.
- Focus on the positive, not the negative. Find something positive with which to begin and end our conversation.
- Don’t waste time talking about things that can’t be changed.
- Ask questions. Find out more about the other person and their feelings. Don’t focus on ourselves.
- Consider withholding a comment. Sometimes the most gracious thing to say is nothing. Exercise self-control.
- Constantly check our hearts. Our words reflect our attitudes and motivations. Ungracious words reveal an ungracious spirit. (See Matthew12:34-36.)
What helps you check your speech and use words that encourage, help, and build up others?
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I always try to remember that God hears every word that comes out of my mouth. I try to not get caught up in gossip. At work, I avoid talking about others and instead try to change the topic if possible.
Debbie, I love what you said about trying to change the topic when others are gossiping. As God’s people, we can not only watch our own words, but also be a positive, encouraging influence on others!