Speak Well of Others
by Debbie Holloway
"The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil" (Proverbs 15:28).
In this age of Internet and social media, gone are the days of the off-switch for dialogue. Time was, conversations ended. Then, with the birth of online discussion forums, they could continue indefinitely (with every word preserved for all to see). Now that we are chained to mobile devices, the debates and exchanges never even have to pause. We may start them at our computers, but we continue them in the elevator…in the car…during dinner. Even during real-life banter with friends and family, fingers fly over smartphones to contribute thoughts to the discourse of the Internet world.
It's hard to step back once you get used to it. I find it to be a very love-hate thing; bittersweet for several reasons. On the one hand, I am completely amazed and delighted by the ability to connect, share, grow, and learn that modern technology provides. On the other hand, the ability to tear apart an opponent with the stroke of a key makes certain biblical mandates that much harder to follow.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:9).
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
I believe that graciousness of speech, speaking well of others (even my enemy or opponent) is something God requires of me. As someone who rarely shies away from conversation or confrontation, every day is a battle for me in this regard. I find myself asking,
Is this a hill to die on?
Is this going to change anyone’s mind, anyway?
Is it even my job to change this person’s mind?
Is this loving? Worth the fuss? Compassionate?
More times than not, recently, I’ve begun to type up a Facebook comment only to delete it before pressing “post.” Not because I changed my stance or re-thought my opinion. Rather, because words don’t die on the World Wide Web – and I have no second chance at a first impression. Perhaps the fewer cold, impersonal words I type into Facebook in the midst of an argument, the fewer tempers will be lost, fewer hearts will hurt, and fewer friends will feel annoyed, alone, or attacked. Perhaps the more I distance myself from the social media circus, the more I can pay attention to the flesh-and-blood conversations that might arise over the dinner table or on the train. Perhaps the less I scroll through Facebook, the more chances I’ll have to look into people’s faces and eyes.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:22-27).
Intersecting Faith and Life: Before you post anything today on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +, weigh your words carefully. Do they provoke edifying discussion, or simply anger? Do your words match up with the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?