“Watch what you say.”
We’ve all heard that warning, right?
I remember smartly replying, “It’s hard because my nose is in the way.”
My mom put said nose in my room…along with the rest of my body. Being a smarty pants didn’t win many points in those days.
It probably still doesn’t. Except when I follow the tips I’m sharing in this post.
Because there’s a time and place for inserting witty comebacks. And it isn’t all the time and everywhere. Even though I thought so as a teenager, and depending on my mood, I slip back into that thought pattern even now, many decades later.
Good thing I’ve learned a few lessons about using my words wisely. Today, I’ll share three tips with you.
I get great news. I share it with the women in my prayer circle. A few celebrate. One of them immediately pipes up with a negative comment.
Suddenly, all the positive words don’t matter. The only thing I hear are the mean ones.
Words matter. And we’ve been called by the Lord to use our words to build people up rather than tear them down.
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
I’ve done many studies on this verse in Philippians that tells us what to think about. One of them encouraged us to run through the list and compare every thought to it.
Is it true? Honest? Just? Pure? Lovely? And if not, kick that thought out of our brain.
I think we should do the same before we speak. But only one question needs to be answered: Will this build up the person I’m saying it to?
If not? Lock up those lips. Mom’s advice is sound, friends. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Our world teems with conflict. It’s like people are waiting for someone to say the wrong thing so they can get offended.
Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. This doesn’t mean to step in the middle of a conflict and bring about resolution. Most of the time, when we do that, it makes things worse.
It does mean to speak words that don’t further the conflict. And it means being the first to apologize, even when you don’t think you owe an apology, or the other person started things.
Is peace in a relationship more important than the pride of being right? Getting in the last word?
A sincere apology acts like a fire extinguisher on heated arguments. Even if you didn’t start a fire, you’d do whatever it took to put it out, right?
We need to value relationships with a similar intensity. Do all that’s in our power to live at peace with the people around us (Romans 12:18).
Although I listed proper timing last, it might be the most important tip for watching our words.
If I’m angry, it’s not a good time to talk to my husband about having a regular date night. Notice, that seems like an innocuous topic, but when we’re emotionally compromised, even a basic conversation can become inflammatory.
It’s also wise to avoid serious conversations when we’re tired or emotional (sad or anxious, not just angry). But don’t just nod and say nothing if someone starts a conversation with you and you’re in one of these states.
“Hey, I’ve had a rough day. Could we talk about this tomorrow?” And then put a reminder on your phone so you follow up. Since you put it off, it’s your responsibility to bring it up later.
If someone becomes accusatory when you ask for a conversational rain check, say, “I want to be fully present for our conversation. And I don’t want you to get the brunt of my negative emotions because they have nothing to do with what we’re about to discuss.”
Seriously, if they press on, there could be a deeper relational issue. When we put boundaries in place, it’s important for others to honor them. And it’s essential that we recall this when we’re on the receiving end of either of the above statements, too.
If you need to have a hard conversation with someone, make sure you’ve prayed about it and that the Holy Spirit is directing you to have that talk. Too often, we get ahead of the Lord and nothing good comes from those moments.
Which of these three is the most difficult for you? Why not ask the Lord for assistance in watching your words?