By drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to temper our tongues and to help us weigh our words, we can learn to speak respectfully to everyone, no matter the situation.
Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king." 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT)
It was a rainy afternoon. Our youngest son was in middle school and I was walking down the school hallway following a meeting with the vice principal. As I opened my umbrella to ward off the chilly shower, I heard a woman’s voice pipe up, "Hello? Excuse me. May I ask you a question?"
I turned to see one of the lunchroom workers walking after me in the hallway.
"Are you Spencer’s mother?" she inquired.
"Yes," I turned and answered her. "Is there something wrong?" My heart fretted. I had just left the vice principal’s office where my son sat busted for pulling a stunt in class. I was not bursting with parental pride. Now I feared he’d also misbehaved in the lunchroom.
"Oh no. Nothing is wrong at all!" she declared. "I just wanted to tell you how respectful your son is. He never fails to flash a huge smile and thank me when I hand him his food or ask if I am having a good day. And he addresses me as ‘ma’am’ and calls the custodian ‘sir.’ Such a fine and respectful son you’ve raised!"
To say her words thrilled this mama’s heart would be an understatement. In fact, it was a little kiss from God that day when this thoughtful school employee pointed out a positive quality she saw in my teenage son’s behavior.
Respect is frequently lost in our society. In person — and especially online — snark and sarcasm often rule. Talking down to someone or insulting one another is the new norm. For adults and for kids, respect is often nowhere to be found.
No longer does society at large use terms like "sir" and "ma’am" when speaking to a stranger. Addressing elders with terms of esteem is rare as well. And having respect for authority seems to have gone out of style long ago.
Today’s digital world has taken this to a new level with many opportunities to use our words online. It has become commonplace to sling opinions on a screen, whether on social media or while leaving a comment on a blog post. And unfortunately, sometimes these comments and thoughts aren’t tucked in an envelope of respect. They are laced with cynicism, mockery or disdain.
However, today’s key verse talks about respect. And not just respecting those in authority, like a police officer, a judge, the president or governor. It goes so far as to say that we are to respect everyone.
Does this mean the grumpy neighbors who constantly let their dog run around your yard and occasionally use it as an outhouse? Yes.
Does it include your combative relative who never speaks respectfully to you? Yes.
What about the difficult person on that committee with you, whose personality and behavior get on your very last nerve? Yep. That one, too.
We can learn to speak respectfully no matter the situation. By drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to temper our tongues and help us weigh our words, we can speak in a polite tone. This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth. It just means we verbalize it in an honorable way.
We can reflect the love of Jesus when we engage in conversations with a calm, collected and civil tone.
Then others might notice — as in the case of the lunchroom lady and my prank-pulling son — that our speech isn’t snappy, impolite or rude. Our language is respectful. Our words are honoring.
To those we are talking to … and more importantly, to God.
Father help me think before I speak, making sure my words are respectful; let my tone be tempered and my manner kind. I want to please You and honor others with my speech. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:10, "Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." (NLT)
Proverbs 16:23, "From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive." (NLT)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Can you name a person who speaks respectfully the majority of the time? What stands out the most to you about how that person uses words?