Taking the Temperature of Our Words
By Aaron D’Anthony Brown
“Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.” – Proverbs 26:4-5
How Do You Rate Your Words?
How would you rate your words – too hot, too cold, or somewhere in the middle? Would you give your communication score a ten out of ten? Do your words tend to be the uncut truth or a manufactured tale? Can you honestly and objectively rate yourself? In today’s modern and technological era, one aspect of society that has not advanced is communication. If anything, we’ve regressed in ways many people have yet to acknowledge, or at least confront.
Communication today is so delicate, so fickle, that we are expected to be correct and precise all the time. Veering off-course immediately leads to broken relationships, offense, hurt, and an abundance of apologies. There is little to no room for error, lest you wind up canceled. Ironically, most people claim to be good communicators, yet somehow our society looks as it does. Our conversations are shallow. We don’t know how to talk to people who disagree with our beliefs. We get offended by every minute thing. Worst of all, whatever problems we have with each other become gossip rather than an opportunity for resolution.
I know an atheist woman upset with her current job environment. By her estimation, none of her coworkers like her, and she has no idea why. Turns out that on different occasions with different people she has lashed out because they called her she when she preferred something else. I also know a Christian guy who would tell you he seeks to embody Scripture in all aspects of life. By his own words, if he were ever mugged, he would give the thief the coat off his back, not just his money. Yet, when he was late to hang out, he didn’t apologize or seem to care. Each of us can pull several different examples of how we’ve fallen short and how we’ve been slighted, leaving us with the question, what’s the solution to this abysmal state of communication?
Intersecting Faith and Life:
There’s no surprise that just as Scripture gives us the formula for loving others, we are also given the formula for effective communication – treating people like ourselves.
“Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4-5)
In other words, we must moderate ourselves and tailor our communication to match the situation and the audience. If we were the fool in the scenario, what would we want someone to do for us? Examples include instances when we see someone indulging in a particular sin, espousing irreligious beliefs, or responding poorly to conflict. Sounds challenging, and strong communication is, otherwise we would all be strong communicators already. Nonetheless, as the cliché goes, practice makes perfect. Here are some strategies we can all practice today.
1. Avoid Being Too Hot
Saying things just to get people to like you is self-defeating. Rather than appreciating you, they appreciate what you offer. The moment the offering stops so does the appreciation.
2. Avoid Being Too Cold
Saying things just to rile people up is self-defeating. The recipient’s mind or heart is not changed, and the relationship is ruined in the process.
3. Be Honest With People
If you withhold the truth, then you’re being deceitful, or even worse, lying. That’s a sin. And if you aren’t honest with people about their sins, then you are enabling them.
4. Be Honest With Yourself
Sometimes people don’t give us the truth because they are afraid of how we will respond. They don’t think we can handle the truth, and if they’re correct, then that’s a problem. If we recognize ourselves as sinners in need of a Savior, then we must be flawed. And if flawed, then we can and should be corrected.
5. Stop Talking About Yourself
Too many of our conversations start, end, and endure because of the subject matter – ourselves. How many conversations would we have and how long would we bother talking if instead of discussing ourselves, we focused on other people?
6. Change and Mature
No matter how great you believe yourself to be in communication, there’s always some way you can be better. That could include how well you listen, asking questions instead of accusing, or not waiting so long to broach certain topics. Maybe you want to become more confrontational or less. How we’re flawed is ostensibly endless, and thus, there are just as many ways in which we can grow. In the end, on a spectrum between being too hot or too cold, we want our words to be warm, effective, and true.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Brett Jordan
Aaron D’Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He’s an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”
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