I grew up singing a song in Sunday School that goes like this:
O be careful little tongue what you say
O be careful little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little tongue what you say
Six decades or so later, I still hear that song in my head.
Here’s the lesson: Words matter.
Of course, so do thoughts and actions (and the song addresses those too). But whatever is in our hearts always makes its way to our mouths. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by merely listening to his or her words.
Jerks typically are those calling other people jerks.
Arrogant people sound cocky.
Broken and weak words reveal an insecure soul.
Our words are like the weather. You don’t need an app; just look outside. When it comes to communication, you still don’t need an app; just listen.
I often write about relationships. And without question, words are paramount in all our interactions with other humans. Our words build either a bridge or a barrier to the people around us. What we say to and about others is what they use to determine if we are honest, trustworthy, and kind or not.
I’m concerned about how I hear people talking to each other—in families, in friendships, and especially on social media about politics. I hear harshness everywhere. I can’t believe the vileness and sarcasm on primetime television. Turn on talk radio, and you’ll find the airwaves flooded with bad-mannered, uncouth, and offensive rhetoric.
It seems that “saying it like it is” is now an excuse for ignoring common decency. (I recently wrote about returning to civility here.)
Whenever someone calls another person “stupid,” they demonstrate a mean spirit that can destroy people.
When people blast others on social media, does that truly bring anything good into the situation?
And when a politician calls another candidate ugly or crude names, they look childish, not like a good leader.
Words matter. Rude and crude are not the new cool. Discourteous vulgarity has never been okay, and it never should be. It’s okay to be honest, but not okay to be horrible in the process.
Okay, that’s the problem. What’s the solution?
- Humble your heart and speak helpful words. It’s time to acknowledge our short-comings and to get off our high horse. When we own the fact that we are far from perfect, it will change our attitude and profoundly affect our communication with others.
- Saturate your mind with positive thoughts. It’s easy to be critical. It’s not difficult to be harsh and mean when we focus on the negative. So don’t watch or listen to the talk shows that bombast everybody. Turn off the sitcoms that make light of crude and sarcastic behavior. Gently challenge (from a place of humility) your friends and family to only say what helps build others up. You don’t ignore evil, but you choose to fix your heart and mind on whatever is noble, lovely, and praiseworthy. We become what we behold; let’s be sure to behold the beauty all around us. (Might want to read that last line again.)
- Ask a good friend to help you unlearn old, bad habits. A lot of us underestimate the value of accountability. Our society has elevated an independent mentality rather than the interdependent life we are called to in Christ. We need each other. We need others in our lives who will kindly correct us when we get mean or run amuck with a negative mouth and nasty words.
Never before in the history of civilization have we had a more extraordinary ability to spread either ugliness or beauty with our words. Social media have opened up a powerful opportunity to make a godly and positive difference. Let's do so with a passion for Jesus and His kingdom.
Let’s not add to the crude, rude, and bombastic rhetoric so prevalent in our culture. Instead, let’s bring light into the dark and good news to a world desperate for hope.
“A good man brings good things
out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things
out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what
the heart is full of.”
Luke 6:45 (NIV)