Before you speak – THINK: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?”
The concept of thinking had been around for centuries. The foundational thoughts in Philippians 4:8 is about what I am letting into my head – and what I let into my is what comes out of my mouth – ALWAYS.
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things – from Philippians 4:8”
I have two teenagers and an EXTREMELY vocal soon to be pre-teen. They have perfected the art of speaking without thinking. I know that they do what they see, so I suspect that I have been guilty of the speaking without thought on more than one occasion.
CASE ONE: I was sitting around the lunch room table in High school and wanted to prove a point about how much our school liked to gossip. I leaned in to my small group of friends and said, “Did you hear?” I knew that by starting with those three words then everyone would try to hear. “Brian is pregnant.” Yes, I said that a guy friend of ours was pregnant. This was the time before cell phones or computers but within three hours I was receiving a call from his sister (who attended a different school) enraged that I had started the rumor that he had gotten someone pregnant. She was not at all impressed that the rumor I started was that HE was pregnant.
I learned that even when proving a point, choosing to share things that are not true can turn into a huge mess. It was months before Brian would speak to me again – and we had always been good friends. His girlfriend at the time (who had be a CLOSE friend for most of my childhood) took even longer to get over the twisted words that came from my sharing.
Truth is important when sharing.
CASE TWO: We were late for church and things were not just hectic but flat out crazy. My husband rushed everyone to the car and rushed to get in – spilling his coffee in the process. He threw the cup – which made an even bigger mess that had to be cleaned up. I said – without thinking – “you are being a baby.” My youngest son – still a toddler at the time – began singing and chanting “daddy’s a baby . . . daddy’s a baby.” It would have been much better for everyone involved if I had taken a moment to THINK before I let the words go (because I would never have allowed those words to go).
Just because something is true does not mean it has any value. My husband was acting like a baby – but telling him that he was acting like a baby did not help his attitude or his behavior.
CASE THREE: I was talking with a friend of mine about the struggles his wife was going through. She wanted to lose weight but it was not working out. “Do you think I’m fat?” She had asked him from a place of vulnerability. He shared his response and I was SHOCKED he was still up and walking around. I pointed out that it was not good, positive, or uplifting and he pointed out that he was positive she was fat and if she wanted to change things she needed to know.
Just because it is true and just because YOU think it might be helpful does not mean that it will inspire the others to change. It is important that every word I pour out on others are words that give them spirit and heart and hope instead of crushing them under the crush of despair or guilt. Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all than to share uninspiring words.
CASE FOUR: My husband and I have been working hard to balance a budget that always seems to be longer than the paycheck. I know it. He knows it. But every few weeks my husband seems to feel the need to bring it up to me again – especially when talking about my pursuit of writing. “We” – and by “we” I know he means me – “need to bring in more money.” And then he goes on and on around a loop about the finances I already understand and he already knows I understand. I com e out on the other end so tired that I have no desire to do anything about anything let alone to try and grow up my writing and speaking career.
Just because the words are true, and maybe even helpful, and maybe even meant to inspire does NOT mean they are necessary. If I know that you know then I may need to hold back the words for the time being.
CASE FIVE: My youngest son will talk non-stop about his video game. He will go into details about the elements of the game, the strategies of the game, and even the design of the game. I do NOT play video games. I had fallen into the habit of saying “I don’t care.” I realized that those words were not kind. I am trying to turn that phrase around to “I am not interested at the moment.”
The book ends for good words are “truth” and “kind” – and I need both if the words are going to have value behind them.
I am learning to speak better – and I pray that my children are learning from my experience. Words have power – so I need to invest in creating a life where I THINK before I speak.