By Contributing Writer, Kelly Crawford
I had vented to my husband on his drive home from work. Well, what else was I supposed to do with this onerous child who had me at my wits end? I mean, my husband and I are a team, we have to tackle this thing head on, and he must be informed of all my exasperation so he can properly deal with the situation when he gets home.
But by the time he got home, said child had apologized, and I had cooled down and was thankful that the Lord had brought at least a little progress to this ongoing struggle. I know this child, despite my frustrations.
But my husband came home ready to do business, and without being personally offended, he was going to take up my case. The problem was, he was very irritated from my irritated rant, and he came down hard and heavy on this child, already scolded from me. The results: exasperation all around.
Over time I began to realize that my words were having a powerful, negative effect on the relationship between my husband and one of our children. It’s not that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t share the struggles—I must, but how I framed it, the words I chose, the tone of my voice—it all has a drastic effect on how someone views the one about whom I’m speaking.
The same can be said of how or what I say to my mother about my husband, to my friend about another friend, how we speak about our extended family members—any relationship needs careful tending and protecting as we are Christians instructed to guard carefully the reputations of others.
“Remind them to…speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:1-2
My words can frame others in a positive light, even amid their faults, or they can tear down and do permanent damage in the minds of the hearers. Do I protect others’ dignity and reputation the way I wish mine to be protected?
All too often we speak harshly of others, hoping to make the contrast with ourselves more vivid, or to reveal to our friends and family what “we have to put up with.” But we have the power to exalt others, and in so doing, we will be exalted in the fitting way.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Let us purpose to be honest but fair in our treatment of others and the words we use. For truly, “the tongue is a fire, capable of setting ablaze a great forest.”
Let us steward the gift of communication we’ve been given, building up those around us, thinking and speaking the best of others.