So how do I fight the deadly forms of unwholesome talk that proceed from my mouth?
First, I remember that the talk that proceeds from my mouth flows out from what’s hidden inside. Whether I talk in ways that build up my hearer or in ways that tear down, the words that flow to the surface materialize in my inner being. The roots beneath feed what shows above.
And only as I’m filled with a sense of Jesus’ overflowing love for me does my life overflow with His sort of words. From my inner being flows a desire that you would know His love and peace, and I overflow with loving words toward you because I’m so loved myself. (Note: my circumstances don’t have to rule my talk — the love Jesus gives fills to overflowing regardless of my current situation.)
In the practical day-to-day
So if I know Jesus and He’s working His supernatural work in me, how do I practically fight to speak only words that edify, that give grace to those who hear?
- I pray. “Oh God, I want to honor you with my lips!” (Ps. 141:3, Prov. 25:11)
- I fight the old way of speaking. I hear myself speaking with coarse jesting, or borderline gossip, or little white lies and …
- I repent. Immediately. “Oh God,” I say, “I’m so sorry I spoke of her that way. Change me!”
- I ask God to show me why I speak thus. What am I seeking from my wrong speaking that only He should give? (Am I telling the little white lie because I don’t trust Him to take care of my needs? Am I tearing her down because I seek the approval I fear she might receive in my place? Am I grumbling because in my rooted, inner being I believe God is cheating me?)
- I think through my unique speech-sins and need for correlating transformation. I remember that the heart is deceitful and so I pray for discernment and conviction — no blaming others, just light to expose my particular speech-sins. I might need to speak more slowly and less inanely. I might need to intentionally work to speak with kindness and not criticism.
- I work at this. Over and over.
- I probably fail a lot.
- I repent. Again and again. And I ask for His supernatural work in my life. (Remember that’s a lot of the point — that His supernatural power be shown.)
And I train myself to use a litmus test: Does my selection of words edify the person listening? Will these words ultimately cause my hearer to want to praise God? Would I want these words to be the last this person ever heard from me? Would I want her to speak these same words, in this same way, to me? Would I want her to whisper these words about me behind my back?
Always ask why
I also always ask myself “why?” Why am I choosing to talk this way? Why do I feel the urge to cut her down to size? Why do I feel this need to build myself up?
And don’t stop there. Always ask the deeper why: Why do I believe I must build myself up? Could it be because I don’t believe God is for me and with me and sees all? Is it because I believe in the root of my being that I must self-protect and self-validate?
Pulling up and replacing roots
Oh we must pull up those roots! But we must not only sever the rotted roots. We must also fill the resultant, cleaned-out root-space with truth — with truth our Lord speaks to us. Truth of His steadfast love toward us, of His lavish grace and mercy. We’ll quit believing we must self-protect and self-validate when we believe His promises to us.
So pick up your phone or laptop and go to biblegateway.com, or pick up your Bible and a pack of index cards. Whether you’re 20-something or 80-something, hide His word in your heart!
Memorize these words He speaks to us, that You might be fitted for His kingdom to come, and bring Him glory in the kingdom of now:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (Jer. 31:3)
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Prov. 31:26)
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)
Realities and end results
The reality is that I’ll continue to fall short until I stand in my glorified body before the Lord, changed forever, unable to speak cruel words ever again. And because of that, I love Jesus more.
He never spoke a word unless it edified His listener. He never gossiped in a self-serving clamor for position. He never lied. He only told truth. He is truth.
So, I worship Him. I fall before Him. I praise Him for His perfect beauty. For He’s more beautiful than anyone or anything. And because I cannot imagine never messing up my words, I love Jesus more. I need Him more. I worship Him more.
And that’s the whole point. Not that the kingdom of ME would be built on the back of my scarring words, but that His kingship would reign in the hearts of all I’m given the privilege to come in contact with.
That’s why I work to rid myself of unwholesome talk.