If you have ever found yourself thinking, "I wish I hadn't said that", you are probably in good company. Most of us have experienced some moment of remorse over poorly chosen words. We just had no idea of the impact they'd make when they were actually spoken.
Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things, but a reliable reporter is a healing presence. (Proverbs 13:17 The Message)
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 King James Version)
Well, now this certainly says it all! I discovered this topic has some of the most content in looking up passages about "words", "speech", and "communication" in the scripture. Since we all probably find ourselves in the category of "irresponsibly speaking" on occasion, I'd like to share some principles I found in the scriptures related to our words. Carefully chosen words lead to a carefully "walked" life. (Proverbs 13:3) The words we choose to speak have a life-altering ability. Not only do they alter our lives, but those who hear them. To this end, let's examine how the passage from Philippians 4:8 may impact our words if we take hold of the principles taught:
1. Our words should be true. If you have ever spoken words which really do not conform to the facts, you probably have either interpreted the facts through a "skewed" perspective, or your intention was to mislead. Either way, the words have an ability to mislead. God's first reminder to us - be truthful.
2. Our words should be honest. You might think this is the same as being truthful, but it carries a different type of meaning. In being honest, we are to be upright and fair. In other words, we speak in such a manner so as to be fair in what is said. Perspective goes a long way in determining our perception of a situation. If we first determine we want a perspective which causes us to see things in a truthful manner, then the words we speak sometimes are "tempered" by the "fairness" principle. Let me explain. When we go to a counselor about our problems, what is the counselor doing? They are listening to both sides of the story! From a neutral perspective, they help us "re-frame" our perspective to see things from another's viewpoint. Before long, if done well, we begin to see the other person differently.
3. Our words should be just. Think of this as words which actually are proper to be spoken at the time. In other words, they are given or awarded rightly. If we use words like "always", "never", or "without fail" in describing another's actions, are these words accurately reflective of the other's actions? Not usually - - try as we might, we cannot "accurately" label someone's actions as consistently, without fail, as always being a certain way. So, we need to learn to bring "reason" into the picture.
4. Our words should be pure. When something is considered "impure", it is usually because it has had something "added" to the mixture. So, pure words don't carry a lot of contaminating "add-mixture" stuff. We don't embellish. We don't need a whole lot of examples to build our case. We need keep our words as free from inappropriate elements as possible.
5. Our words should be lovely. They should possess a beauty to them which is sincere and which appeals both to the heart and the mind. Words which are insincere have a "masked" meaning. They may appeal to the mind for a while, but when they hit the heart, their true meaning becomes apparent.
6. Our words should bring a good report. Mom always taught, "If you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all." Our guiding principle with this concept is to allow our words to be morally excellent. If they don't reflect good morals on our part - don't speak them. If they destroy the good morals of another - don't speak them. If they would be best left unspoken - don't speak them. The questions to ask ourselves: Are they right? Are they fitting? Are they proper? If not, don't speak them.
7. Our words should bespeak virtue and praise. Words should lend something to the integrity of the relationship. If they don't, they tend to tear down rather than knit together.
Now, if this seems like a rather long list, it is. God gives it to us in bite-sized chunks so we have an ability to allow him to impact our words in measurable ways. If we begin at the top, working with God each step of the way, he can impact our choice of words. It may not come instantly, but as we commit to the principles taught, we become much wiser with the use of our words. We don't need to manipulate to get our message across - - it comes across in a powerful and altering way because it is tempered with the grace of God! As a closing thought, take a lesson from one who has learned, "All words need to be thought, but not all thoughts need to make it into words!"