I don’t remember how old I was (see last week’s post if you need a reminder of how awful my memory is), but I think I was in about 7th grade. I had noticed that some edgier kids in my grade were using curse words—equally shocking and intriguing to me at the time. I couldn’t get over how easily and confidently those kids let crude words and phrases spout from their mouths. Don’t ask me why—I guess it’s just too difficult to tap into all of my middle-school angst right now—but I decided to try saying a curse word, too. I say “try” because I had to think long and hard about how and when to use my chosen curse word; it certainly did not come naturally to me. I must not have had a very well-thought-out plan (or maybe I just should have practiced more) because when I finally forced the minor curse word out of my mouth while talking to friends, it felt terribly weird and horribly flat. Instead of feeling cool and edgy, I felt like a convicted fraudster. Dohhhhh..(Ah ha! There’s my middle school self making an appearance.) Although I am not known as someone who gives up easily once I put my mind to something, I don’t recall ever trying to repeat that experience. All I can say to that is, thank. God.
Perhaps you are wondering where I’m going with this post. Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about words since I spoke to a mother recently who—like the edgy kids in middle school—peppered her speech with words that shocked me. Unsure of where I stood on the cursing front, she muttered a half-hearted apology the first time she dropped a very spicy adjective into the conversation, but after that, she parted with the niceties and, instead, let it rip. Later in the conversation, she explained that they were a “cursing” family, giving her teenage son full permission to curse away (provided he considered the company he was in.) The mom went on to explain that although cursing was allowed, unkind speech was absolutely forbidden. “Ah yes,” I thought, “that makes perfect sense.”🙄
“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” (Eph 4:29)
At the risk of sounding like an old fart (and using “unwholesome” (but funny) words like fart as I do), I need to ask, “What the heck is happening in our world right now?” Oh, it’s not just the rampant cursing that is getting to me; it’s the explicit (and revolting) song lyrics, the demeaning comments on social media, and the labeling/name-calling that seems to be as universal as the air we breathe. (*I’m laughing because I’m a passenger in a car right now, and the driver just asked God to bless the jerk in the car that cut him off. Raise your hand if you’ve done the same 🙋🏻♀️.) If death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov 18:21), there is a lot of death being released into the atmosphere right now. Is anyone else feeling the effects of this?
Before you assume I am sitting on my high horse and pointing my finger at others, I assure you I’m not. Although I don’t have a cursing habit, there is a fair amount of unwholesome speech coming out of my mouth (especially if Ephesians 4:29 is to be taken seriously.) I know I need to take the plank out of my own eye before I try to remove the speck in yours (Matt 7:3). I shouldn’t look down on people who use the F-bomb when I slander other drivers on the road. Sin is sin; we don’t get to put sins on a sliding scale. Titus 3:2 tells us to slander no one and be peaceable, considerate, and always gentle toward everyone. Dear God, I have such a long way to go😩. How about you?
If you are feeling convicted right now, good! Me too! If you aren’t feeling convicted, I encourage you to sit with God for a few minutes and ask Him how you are doing with speaking life over others. In what ways are you speaking death?
Would you like to get better at speaking life over others? (Perhaps you’re wondering what that even means?) There is no short answer to this question, but if we start with Ephesians 4:29, speaking life means building others up. We can do this by:
- Thanking others for doing what they do, even if it’s their job: “I appreciate how hard you worked on the yard today.”
- Notice other’s efforts to do the right thing: “I saw how you included your sister in your game. That was so kind.”
- Call out the gold in someone. “You are such a kind boy” (even when he/she finds it hard to share.)
- Tell someone you trust them to do the right thing.
If you would like to get better at decreasing your negative speech, I have a few suggestions for this as well:
- Pray and ask God to help you move toward more wholesome speech. If you have a habit of cursing, it likely will take more than good intentions to stop. P.S. If you think the effect of cursing is a harmless habit, consider why is it called “cursing?”
- Ask one of two people who are close to you (and the Holy Spirit) to help you be more aware of when you are cursing or slandering others.
- Repent quickly when you make a mistake. Ask God to forgive you and help you to overcome any unwholesome talk.
- Forgive the people in your life who have modeled/taught you ungodly habits of communication.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to speak encouragement over others. Positive talk is addicting!
As always, let me know your thoughts by commenting below. Your feedback is so appreciated!