God is calling us to something way bigger than, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
By Sheri Wohlfert
Let your speech always be gracious. -Colossians 4:6
Jeremy was a young boy who was best friends with trouble. He spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom. One day when he was in the eighth grade, he had once again won himself an all-expense paid vacation to the principal’s office. This particular day, the principal and the vice principal were both absent, so the secretary sent him across the street to see the high-school principal. He took a seat in the unfamiliar office, realizing this new territory made him a little nervous.
When the secretary told him the principal was ready to see him, he walked heavy-footed and heavy-hearted toward the gentleman seated behind the desk. He prepared himself for the judging glare and harsh commentary he had become accustomed to. What happened next, however, shocked him right down to his socks and changed his life.
The principal rose to his feet, smiled broadly, and then shook the boy’s hand with the same friendly, warm handshake he would have extended to a celebrity visitor. He looked the boy in the eye and said, “Welcome to our school, Jeremy. I’m happy to meet you. I understand you will be a student in this building next fall, and before we talk about what brought you here today, I’d like to talk to you about what gifts and talents you’ll share with us when you’re a freshman.”
One conversation was all it took to change a young man’s direction.
I wish I could say my speech is always gracious … I wish I could say my speech is always as positive and optimistic as that principal’s … but truth be told, my tongue can be snappy and sassy at times, especially with the people who need sweetness most. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t put my head on the pillow at night and examine my conscience and my day without recounting an instance when I barked off an answer or responded silently to someone’s silly questions with a DUHH! look in my eyes. I have to admit I’ve had moments when I should have just bitten my tongue and kept quiet. Maybe if my tongue tasted better, perhaps like chocolate, I would be more likely to bite it and swallow ungracious words.
Since I don’t think God will be changing tongue flavors any time soon, it’s up to us to pray for the grace of discipline to speak gracious words. I think the first step to gracious speech is to ask ourselves two basic questions before we speak:
- Would I say these words to Jesus?
- Will any possible good come from these words I’m about to speak?
We are all created in the image and likeness of God so He is present in each person we speak to … hmm … that’s something to think about. It’s also important to remember we speak with our eyes and our bodies. There have been times my face and my body said something completely different than my words.
I think God is calling us to something way bigger than, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” In this verse from Colossians, He’s directing us to speak graciously! He’s establishing it as the norm, every day, not just on Sundays between the church pew and the car … He used the word always!
Biting our tongue won’t give us the gracious spirit needed to speak graciously always, but being mindful of this verse and asking continuously for His grace will get us closer. Imagine how we’d all feel if this Scripture came to life in our home, workplace and church! You just never know when God might have you in mind to change a life the way Jeremy’s principal did with his gracious words.
Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic wife, mom, speaker, and teacher who writes from Michigan. She uses her sense of humor and her deep faith to help others discover the joy of being a child of God. Sheri also writes at JoyfulWords.org.