Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. ~ Ephesians 4:29
Recently I’ve heard a lot of complaints from my younger son about negative comments being made by friends. Sometimes these comments are directed at him. Other times he hears negative comments being said to others. Either way, he comes home saying, “They’re so annoying!” Oh, that word ‘annoying’. My older son uses that word a lot, too, and it’s usually for the same reason…friends say things he finds annoying. Then I find myself thinking that my kids are annoying because they complain so much about how annoying others are!
C0nsider the chain reaction one negative comment can make… It starts with something negative being said by one person, who shares the negativity with someone else, and then that person receives the negativity and becomes annoyed!
My husband and I have been trying to combat the effects of negative remarks by responding with positive suggestions, instead. First we try to help our sons, ages 9 and 15, understand why a comment was made. Was it a verbal jab made for personal reasons? Or was it a legitimate reason expressed in an inappropriate way? Then we help them think of ways they can respond to improve the situation instead of furthering the problem.
The Bible verse above tells us we should only say things that are helpful for building others up according to their needs, and not let any unwholesome speech come out of our mouths.
Hmmmm…what have I said to others today? Was I positive? Or negative? Did I respond to another person’s negative comment with more negativity? Or did I try to improve the situation with something positive? If I didn’t have something positive or helpful to say, did I speak anyway? Or did I keep my thoughts to myself? When I ‘corrected’ my chidren, was I irritated and negative? Or did I try to speak in an instructive, helpful way for the purpose of bringing about good?
You’ve probably heard of the best selling book by Norman Vincent Peale called “The Power of Positive Thinking”. Originally published in 1952, more than 20 million copies have been sold in 41 languages! In his book, Mr. Peale helps people improve themselves and their situations by improving their thoughts, emphasizing the power of positive thinking. This leads me to ponder…If positive thinking is powerful for improving ourselves, imagine how the power of positive speaking can improve situations with others!
Does that mean we can only say positive things and not say anything negative? You know, like the old addage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Not exactly. Sometimes, especially as parents, it’s necessary to say things that are negative for the purpose of instructing or correcting. However, when we do so, we’re not to speak in a criticising manner, but in a positive, uplifting way in hopes of helping the other person learn or improve. Speaking positively isn’t just about what we say, but also how we say it.
The Bible has much to say about the power of positive (and negative) speaking, and how to respond to others. Here are just a few verses:
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ~ Proverbs 12:18
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~ Proverbs 15:1
A cheerful heart is good medicine… ~ Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. ~ Proverbs 15:30
Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it. ~ 1 Peter 3:9
In closing, here’s a quote from a woman I greatly admire, Mother Teresa: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.”
Let’s pray…Dear God, Help us to be good stewards of our words. Amen.
For more about this topic, see these related posts:
“Your Tongue, Does it Woo or Wound?” Posted 04-16-2007
“30 Praises a Day” Posted 05-30-2008