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).
Just as a blunt object can bruise and bring injury to the body, so blunt words can hurt hearts and wreck relationships. Even some who pride themselves on being direct can drive people away. Sadly, like chronic bad breath, no one is willing to inform them of their offensiveness. Colleagues fear, lest they become the latest victim of the offender's verbal jabs. Direct speech is not a license for public sparing but private reproof. Words laced in grace accomplish more than caustic candor.
How do we know if we are too blunt in our conversations? If we talk more than we listen, we have a higher probability of indiscreet speech. If we impatiently wait for another to stop talking so we can give our opinion, we may be guilty of tearing down instead of building up. If we are angry or dissatisfied we may communicate insensitive words. If we are really brave, we might ask a friend if the way we communicate is helpful or harmful. Direct people need direct feedback.
But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief (Job 16:5).
Comfort precedes confrontation in conversations that most effectively correct the hearer. Like ‘a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down,’ so words dripping with honey are ingested into the stomach of the soul. Truth administered like a sharp scalpel cuts with clean precision, while a jagged, dull saw only frustrates. So, place a caring arm around a friend’s shoulder before you shoulder them with specific concerns. Like Jesus, look for redemption in the conversation.
Most of all, follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in leading others to understand their need to change. We can only model the way and not get in the way of the Spirit’s work in another’s heart. We can unselfishly serve and hope our actions will infect the ones we serve with a servant’s heart. The best conversations happen in the margins of our relationships. So, we prayerfully wait to bring up sensitive matters when their heart is most open to truth. Sharpened speech is Spirit led.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, use my words as an instrument in Your Spirit’s hands to help build up.
Related Readings: Psalm 15:2, 40:10; John 7:18; Romans 9:1; Matthew 12:36; Ephesians 5:4
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