The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18, NIV).
God wants us to be careful of what we say. He wants us speaking well of others. Easier said than done sometimes right? Let me share some thoughts about what that means.
Speaking well of others does not mean…
- Not holding each other accountable. Matthew 18:15-17, If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. The Bible is very clear that we are supposed to hold each other accountable. All of us should want other people hold us accountable. But often what we want to justify as holding people accountable out of love and encouragement for them, is little more than pride wanting to show how good we are.
- Saying things are something they are not. Colossians 3:9, Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. Speaking well of each other is not flattery. It is not telling a person who is constantly griping and complaining that they are a model peacemaker. Speaking well of others must always be based solidly in truth.
- Living in denial. Jeremiah 7:9-11, Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.
Speaking well of others is not living in denial of problems that exist. If a person is a habitual liar is not speaking well of them to say they just enjoy embellishing every once in a while. Speaking well of others will never say a real problem is a good thing.
Speaking well of others means…
- Thinking before speaking. Proverbs 10:19, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. We all give lip service to this truth but we often give ourselves a pass from following it ourselves. About three weeks ago I got an endorsement for my book from a nationally known author and speaker. As soon as I got it I sent it to my managing editor at Harvest House and asked them to let me know if I could use it. I did not hear back from her right away, as I usually do. I started to get annoyed. After a week I was beginning to feel ignored. As I was thinking about writing something to find out what was going on, I thought about how I am not the only project she has and I should be patient. I decided not to write anything and wait a while longer. A few days ago I got a response. She apologized for not getting back to me. She had not been in much in the last three weeks because her oldest sister died three weeks ago and her mother died last week. Boy, am I glad I held my tongue. She did not need to hear from a high-strung, author, she needed love and support. Think, really think before you speak.
- Choosing words to build others up rather than words to break them down. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, encourage one another and build each other up. Easy to say, hard to do. Yes. But God is concerned about what is best for the people we are in relationship with, not what is easiest for us. The Holy Spirit’s job is to correct and convict. When we do that, we are putting ourselves in His place. Our job is to encourage and build each other up. That saying in AA is very good Scriptural advice, “Let go and let God.”
- Focusing on what is good and positive. Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Look for the good in others and praise them for it. We are masters as catching people in the wrong. We need to be twice as proficient at catching people doing right. Everyone is a sinner. No one is perfect. But everyone has good qualities that we can highlight. Everyone has talents and gifts that we should admire and thank God for. I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, well you don’t know so-and-so, and the sooner God takes them out of my life or out of my church, or out of my business the better.” Bah! That’s foolishness! They are made in the image of God, that alone is praiseworthy. Every person you meet God placed in your life for a reason. And chances are, one of those reasons is to learn to love and appreciate them.