Monday Morning Devotion-April 3, 2023
Weighing Your Words
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.
Do actions speak louder than words? I’m sure you have heard that statement before, but is it true? Maybe sometimes, but not always. What got me thinking along those lines was a three-part sermon series by Andy Stanley, Pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
His answer to that question was: “I don’t know but they are right neck and neck.”
I think it is a subject that is well worth exploring so let’s jump in and check it out.
I will be drawing heavily on Stanley’s series because it was thought provoking and I felt challenged by it. As a writer the way I use words is extremely important to me.
Stanley’s message caused me to think about the way words are used in everyday conversations and in myriad circumstances. As he points out “Our lives have been changed by words spoken to us… over us… at us…and about us.”
Likewise, we are often slow to admit that our words have impact in the lives of other people. We use words indiscriminately because we don’t recognize that our words carry weight. When we say something hurtful, we may defend it by saying, “Well I was just being honest.”
Stanley says: “Honesty is saying what is true. But honesty is not saying everything that is true. If you say everything that is true, you will have no friends. You will have no life. So, honesty is not just walking around saying anything. You weren’t being honest you were just being a jerk.”
The crux of this message is that words are not equally weighted. Negative words weigh way more than positive words. Sure, people know that sometimes they need to hear hard things, so Stanley says: “Intent is as important as content. It is difficult to receive difficult words if we don’t trust the other person’s intentions.”
As Paul points out in our scripture lesson. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.
Consider your conversation a construction site. Your mouth is the gate, and you are the gate keeper. If you feel like you have a difficult point to make, one that will benefit their needs, not yours, then “it is imperative that you load up on the positive and the constructive. That is what ensures that constructive criticism (the content) achieves its intent.”
Stanley points out that market people say “you need 5 to 9 positives to counterbalance one negative. But he feels that in our relationships we need 25 or 30 to counterbalance a negative.”
In other words, in addition to portion control consider proportion control of positives to negatives. Obviously, to do this requires self-control.
In my book “Monday Morning Devotions, Chapter (#26) which is called “Mouth Management” points out “It’s easy to spot others’ weaknesses and take advantage of them. Anyone can do that. It takes more character and extra effort to be kind. Mouth management is the key.”
In her book Me and My Big Mouth Joyce Meyer points out it is hard to support others in our conversation or actions if we are always complaining ourselves. She said she could remember once “asking God for something and the answer came clearly back ‘Why should I give you more? You’re already complaining about what you have.’”
Stanley says one thing that we need to keep in mind every day that is a game changer is this: “The relationship you have with others is RARELY the SAME RELATIONSHIP they have with you. Everybody is of equal value in a relationship but there is Unequal Power, Influence and Authority.
When you are talking to a child your relationship is an adult talking to a child. But the child’s relationship is that they are a child talking to an adult. As an adult you hold all the cards (until they are 13 and then it changes :)) But a child is talking to someone that they are dependent on. So you are in a relationship with your child that is not the same relationship the child has with you.
This is true in most relationships; they are not the same. Maybe you are talking to your boss. The relationship is not the same on both ends. It is true in most relationships…older brother/younger brother…older sister/younger brothers, etc. So even in family relationships there is an inequality because the relationship is not the same for both.
This fact should affect the words we use. Words carry weight. They can leave a mark for good or for bad. They can inspire. They can build or destroy. We have all been on the receiving end of words that built us up. Likewise, we have received words that tore us down. Taken away our confidence. That’s the power of words. They become personal. They are very emotional.
Words…the ones we use and the words others use in talking to us can become emotional. They have a certain power over us or over who we are talking to. Words can inflate or deflate our confidence.
The idea that our words have the power to wound or affect someone else’s confidence should bother us and we should take responsibility for our words.
The apostle Paul said that as Christ followers we are supposed to build each other up and of all people we should take responsibility for our words. We are supposed to encourage one another, forgive one another, and take care of one another. In other words , as Christians we are “one another people.”
We need to consider the words we use in each conversation. Remembering that the relationship is not necessarily the same for the other person we should try to choose words that build other people up.
Remember that negative words weigh more that positive words. So it takes a lot more of the positive to overcome the heavy burden of the negative.
Words carry weight!
Prayer: Lord, help us to be ever mindful of the words we use, the weight of each one and careful to choose those that build others up. Amen!