Better Relationships (Pt.2) – Think Before Speaking

James gives us some great advice to help improve the quality of all of our relationships. He highlights three essential ways to improve our relationships: be a good listener, think before speaking and control your anger. Today we will spend some time looking at how important it is to ‘think before speaking’.

James 1:19-20. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for human anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

After telling us to be “quick to listen”, James tells us to be “slow to speak”. In other words, we need to think (engage our brain!) before opening our mouth! Our mouth tends to get us into a lot of trouble, if we’re not careful.

Observations about ‘Words’:

Let’s make a few important observations about the words that we speak.

  1. Words have great power! The things we say have big consequences! We, in so many ways, are the product of words. The words others have spoken over us and the words we speak to ourselves and about ourselves. Words, although invisible, are mighty! They induce emotion – great fear, great thrill, sadness, longing, joy – words touch the heart. Because of the potential damage of our words, it’s wise to be ‘slow to speak’ and not too ‘hasty’ with our words.
  2. Controlling the tongue is difficult. As we have seen – our mouth gets us into trouble more than any other thing. How easily we say things and then wish we hadn’t. Once those words have been spoken they are ‘out there’ and their affect is difficult to undo.
  3. Words influence the quality of our life. You will reap a harvest from the words you sow, just as a farmer receives crops from what he plants. This is the law of the harvest – you will reap what you sow. If you can control your tongue, you set the direction of your life and you can keep your whole body in check. Your tongue turns or directs your whole life, just like a small bit in the mouth of a horse and a small rudder on a large ship. Our words create an ‘atmosphere’ around us – in our world and our relationships. Whether it is positive or negative is determined by the choice of the words that we speak.
  4. Controlled speech is a sign of maturity. The ability to control the tongue is one of the clearest marks of maturity and wisdom. In fact, a perfect person is one who is never at fault in what they say. As we grow older and more mature, an indicator should be a greater control of the words that we speak.

Using Our Words for Good

Each one of us is responsible for the words that we speak. We can’t control what happens to you but we do have control over how we choose to respond or react. No one makes us say anything! Between an ‘event’ and our ‘response’ there is always a moment of choice. We can tend to be reactionary people. The external environment, people and circumstances tend to determine what happens in our life. We are “reactive” rather than “proactive”. We tend to defend, blame and retaliate, which just makes things worse. That’s why it’s so important that we hit the ‘pause’ button and think before speaking.

Here are some keys in ensuring that our tongue is used for good:

  1. Guard your heart. We need help and an inner change of heart because the mouth speaks what’s inside. What are you ‘storing up’ within you? Eventually it will come out. Out of our heart flow all the issues of life. Like a computer, we will output what has been input over time.
  2. Choose to speak words of life. We can make a choice to speak positive things. How we use our mouth and what words we speak are our choice. We can intentionally stop using our words in a way that damages people and intentionally choosing to speak words of life that build up and benefit others.
  3. Be open and honest. Communication is the key to understanding and understanding is the key to intimacy. Be open and honest with other people. Don’t wear masks or hide. Be real and tell people how you really think and feel. Openness leads to great intimacy. You can’t build a close relationship with someone who isn’t sincere and transparent. Obviously, we need to think about the level and depth of relationship we have with people and apply the appropriate degree of openness. The more trust we have developed in a relationships, the more we will feel ‘safe’ to be open. Make a choice to go a little deeper in your relationships.
  4. Be lovingly assertive, when appropriate. Assertiveness is all about being able to assert your rights. Errors in this area can lead to a lot of relational problems. Sometimes, we adopt a belief that says that it’s not right to be assertive, and that we should always surrender our rights and even be willing to be wronged in the name of love. The key issue is how we define ‘assertiveness’. The truth is that you can be both loving and assertive. Of course, genuine love may involve choosing to sacrifice our rights when appropriate … There is a difference between ‘under-assertive’ and ‘over-assertive’. Under-assertive people tendencies: they can’t set limits, can’t say “no” (without feeling guilty), are easily manipulated by stronger people, are unable to express feelings of anger constructively, avoid conflict situations and shirk responsibilities, are excessively apologetic, can’t send clear and unambiguous messages, experience anxiety and guilt when they do not assert themselves and tend to fantasize after conversations (replaying the situation over and over). Of course, the other extreme is ‘over-assertiveness’. Tendencies are: a lack of tact and sensitivity, hurting other people, steam-rolling their ideas and opinions, and a tendency to be autocratic (‘we’ll do it my way’) … There is a difference between being ‘assertive’ and ‘aggressive’: If you have anger you cannot be appropriately assertive. Many people wait until they are angry before they speak their mind. That is too late! When anger is involved, assertiveness is no longer a healing activity. When you do it right there should usually not be offence.
  5. Learn to speak the truth in love. We can confront without hurting. We must not hang on to our anger and hurt. We need to take responsibility for our feelings. Share your feelings and thoughts honestly and openly. Always seek to maintain the relationships. Remember the goals of loving confrontation should always be a better understanding, a positive change and a growing relationship. Have the courage and the consideration to learn to confront lovingly.

2 Replies to “Better Relationships (Pt.2) – Think Before Speaking”

  1. this is my comment to any relationship problem… In the very beginning I was absolutely clueless about anything connected to Christianity, except basic conceptions that we have as an orthodox country. I came to evangelical confession when I was around 20. I was full of hopes, dreams, and was looking ahead with a bright hope, that if you are strong, kind, outgoing person, you’ll reach everything in your life. I came to church curious, hopeful, and joyful. When I hit 22 I “left” the church destroyed, discouraged, and full of hurt. Well, someone can say I was not good enough, not smart, wise or organized. That’s of course partly true, was I wrong as a human, as a sinner – no doubt. The question is was I treated right and the way I’m supposed to? Absolutely no. In this article I’m trying to warn others, so that you’d not have a ruined life, relationship and future, only because of people that think they are better than you are.
    So…I came to church and started to get to know Christians and The God, Christians became an example for me, the things that I saw on the outside were really wonderful, I felt like this is the place where I’m understood and accepted just as I am, the place where I can rely on people and tell out my inmost dreams and fears…how terribly I was wrong. I always believed in God, and do sincerely love Him. But when everything happened I started to doubt my very faith, and if I need to continue living at all. In about a year I met a girl in church where she was a leader, we liked each other at one moment, we talked for hours, and spend days together. I started to think that I don’t need heaven, I’m fine enough right here. We spent most of the time together, and she spent less time doing her ministry and spending less time with pastor’s family, especially with his wife and kids she used to play all the time. I liked the pastor, he seemed like a nice guy, I used to tend to trust people, thank God not anymore. One day she told me, that the pastor talked to her and advised her not to spend so much time with me, not to have me in her house alone, and in general not to have me alone near her, I could never understand that because I was always trying to please people, to do good to them, including pastor. I and her didn’t do anything sinful. That’s why I was in complete shock! He came up to me and explained it as a need for her to do more for God. How in the world can any boy/girl relationship grow on that basis? No way! It’s going to be killed, which basically did happen! It was a deliberate, thought through attack. I was young and inexperienced in relationships, that’s why I couldn’t understand what was right thing to do, I started to really believe that there’s something wrong with me, because of course they are older and more spiritual, but the need to see her was too strong. She was also fighting it, but because she was burnt on previous relationships she was more careful, and “respected” the higher authority, because the Bible says: “…respect and be obedient to any authority, since it’s established by God” Was Nazi authority established by God as well? I doubt it.
    Several times we met together in the café, just two of us, I continued to call her and persisted on spending more time with her.
    At the same time the pastor was making his own black work. He was threatening her to leave the church if she continues to meet with me, which for her as it appeared was not acceptable. He told me that she is supposed to lead ministry, and not to date, how he came to that decision? I have no freaking idea, but as he said: “God told me that.” Well God told ME that I love my girl! After I “disobeyed” a couple of times, he told me he was giving me the last chance, after that he’ll ask me to leave the church. I was struggling between seeing her, and do what I was told. Whoever loved, will understand me…not to see the one you love equals death. She was hurting, I could see it in her eyes, but since it wasn’t her first problematic relationship, she didn’t suffer as much. Apparently she didn’t love me.
    At the same time I started to notice that the “body of the church” changed towards me. Leaders smirked, and avoided me, sometimes they even threw insults in my face, but not obvious ones. In general what I noticed, the biggest problem in church is hypocrisy, and so called religious leaders. Of course for me that was the biggest shock of my life, I’ve never been treated like that before, and even complete unbelievers didn’t hurt me that much. Of course they say: “the most hurt is from the ones that are close to you”.
    Anyway its impossible to make this story short. The pastor said we can see each other in Bible studies or other events, which were miraculously canceled quite often, and created the situation when we could meet once or twice a week, and talk to each other sometimes only for five minutes a week! I was broken, no one seemed to understand, the church…the very church that was supposed to give hope and compassion turned down on me and despised me. It was a place filled with evil, all they preached in a matter of days vanished and became an empty sound, all they talked about for thousands of hours, was nothing but a movement of their mouths. In the 2nd Cor. it is being described in a very good way: “if I am ‘everything’ but don’t have love, I’m just an empty sound”.
    I was on the edge, wired, nervous, desperate, without help, my own…I broke…, in one of the last days I tried to kiss her, I “committed sin”, the pastor asked me to leave the church, I expected that…I left the church, after some period of time I had a chance to return and be a part of that church once again, but I never did.
    Have you ever heard the expression “Catch 22”? it’s when no matter what decision you make, you fail anyway. The whole failure in this relationship was predicted from the very beginning, someone can say “it is Gods will what had happened”, I don’t know about that, but I don’t think we should mix such notions as “Gods will” and “Satan schemes”.
    Right now I’m married, I have a beautiful wife, whom I love very much. To say that I’m fine with what happened…NO, I am not. I wish it never happened. Many times after that Satan was trying to destroy my dating with my present wife through the church, or destroy my faith for the better. It failed, I’m standing on firm ground, and can recognize any of His schemes.
    My advice to anyone who is dating, will date, or knows someone in that position – I advise you all, to be very careful with your love, don’t give a chance to Satan to crawl like a worm inside and eat it all. Love if one of the most precious moments of life, protect it, and if it’s necessary – fight…fight like lions for it, don’t be afraid, you WONT LOSE MORE THAN THAT EVER. Be very careful with telling someone you love her, because that’s what Satan is going to use against you after. A good friend of mine once said: “you made the biggest mistake in all of that, you confessed you love her, to pastor, to her, and to others, once you do that you are in trap, it can be used against you, she can say: “YES, NO, OR GIVE ME TIME” After that nothing is going to depend on you, you won’t be free. She can do whatever she wants with you. She can even look for a better match, while keeping you on the hook. You’ll be helpless, you going to call her but she’ll tell you she doesn’t have time, you’ll ask her if she likes you, but she vaguely answer that she needs time. Check the one you like, and if she is open and positive about you, slowly but CAREFULY push closer, if you feel like she’s backing out, it can mean only 2, and ONLY 2 things, 1st she needs time, or 2nd she’s dragging time because she doesn’t really care about you, and is keeping you because there’s no one around yet. In BOTH cases the only answer – is to back out, never push the process, however painful it is to you, believe me it’s checked in real life. You might have heard another very wise life thing: “if you are in a relationship and she doesn’t call, sometimes it’s very useful to give time and not to call first for a couple of days. It is good to pursue a girl, but to a point…
    In the end I would like to wish to all people that strife for good, to seek what is good, cling to good people, and keep away from everything that makes you SICK. Don’t be afraid to be bold, to stand up, to say that you ARE human as well and you have the same rights, for God made us all free and gave us all equal rights.

  2. Hey, Joe. Thanks for being courageous enough to share your story. I’m sorry it’s a hurtful one, and especially from a ‘church’. After all, as Christians, we are supposed to be known for our love. I’m glad life seems to be going well for you now and I do pray that you’ll find some healing for things that have been said or done to you. Mark

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