Is Your Speech Under Control?
In a Bible study called Conversation Peace – the Power of Transformed Speech I was challenged to consider whether I was on course with God’s plan for my speech.
At first, I automatically answered, “yes”.
- I don’t use the Lord’s name in vain.
- I don’t swear at my neighbours.
- I don’t speak hateful things to my friends.
I thought that I had my speech under control. However, the author of this study, Mary A. Kassian, gave a list of twenty questions that made me rethink my automatic answer.
She asked, “Do you gossip?” I automatically thought, “No, of course not.” But then she went on to ask, “Do you enjoy repeating the latest news or rumour you heard about another person?”
This question gave me reason to sit up and take notice. A girlfriend that I have known for over fifteen years lives three hours away from me, but we frequently talk on the phone. One of the things we often ask each other is, “Have you heard from so-and-so?” or “What’s the latest on you-know-who?” I did not realize that this was truly gossip. I just thought that we were “catching up”.
Now I understand that our telephone conversations should be focused on ourselves and not about repeating news about someone else. It’s a fine line between expressing a legitimate interest of concern and chinwagging about the latest rumour.
Mary Kassian asked, “Do you slander?” I automatically thought, “Never!” But then she continued her questions, “Do you say things about others behind their back that you would not say to their face?”
I thought I was being polite. But I realize now that if I wouldn’t say it to them then I shouldn’t say it at all. My mother’s advice, “If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all” seems to have new meaning for me now.
Kassian asked, “Do you nag?” I automatically thought, “No.” But she asked, “Do you repeat your desires and opinions to others until you get what you want?”
Put this way, I have to admit that I do. I thought I was strong willed but now I can see it more as bullying. I don’t need to have a whiny voice to nag. But like the steady flow of water can wear down a rock, I can think of times when I have repeated my desire until I got it.
Words matter. They reflect what is in our heart. The Bible invites us to be imitators of God and says that even foolish talk and coarse joking are out of place (Ephesians 5:4). The key to controlling one’s tongue is to oversee the source from which words flow (James 3:11). What’s inside will come out.
This study has made me look in my heart in order to change my speech. When I’m challenged to look more deeply at what I say and how I say it, I realize that I still have a long way to go to improve my speech. And I must start with changing my heart.
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34 NIV).
If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all.
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