Friday, March 24, 2023

Choosing the Right Words (Proverbs 10:31–32; 16:23; 25:11)

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Prov. 25:11).

Job learned a great truth many would do well to grasp, “How forceful are right words!” (Job 6:25). Choosing the right words can pave the way into a stubborn and rebellious heart unlike all the striving in the world. If you must tell someone something difficult for them to hear, or if you need to rebuke them or confront them with a truth they might find hard to swallow, consider your words carefully. Along with timing and environment, the right words and the proper spirit lend to making difficult communication glorious to the Author of words.

“Our Lord witnesses of Himself, as ‘gifted with the tongue of the learned, that He might know how to speak the word in season’ (Isa. 50:4),” Bridges wrote. “His discourses on the living water and the bread of life arose naturally out of the conversation, and therefore were full of arresting application. Paul powerfully charged superstition on the Athenians by an inscription on their own altar; and strengthened his reasoning by quoting from one of their own poets (Acts 17:22–28). To a corrupt and profligate judge he preached ‘righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come’ (Acts 24:25).”

No matter what the circumstances, we should know what words are acceptable and fit our manner of speaking to the particulars of our audience. This takes time and reflection, consideration of the other person, understanding of his circumstances and prejudices. Sometimes we do not have all the information we need, and we choose the wrong words. We should not let such times pass without taking the lesson to heart and squandering opportunities to gain wisdom.

“We may think to relieve our conscience by speaking our mind, but to do it rudely and harshly, may put a stumbling-block in our brother’s way,” Bridges wrote. If you know someone is both wrong yet sensitive about an issue, don’t coldly and condescendingly ram your argument down his throat, even though the truth is on your side. Tell him gently and in love. Sometimes a person is so bent not to know the truth that they will cry “mean-spirited” no matter how gently you speak. But never use such cases to excuse failure to reflect on your words and motives. Consider your speech and lavishly garnish it with gentleness and wisdom that others may be blessed.

Communicating has less to do with vocabulary than attitude toward others. Stop and evaluate your message before you speak. Don’t blurt out whatever is on your mind. Take the time to get to know other people so you can love them through your communication. Pray that God will give you the grace to love as Christ loves.