Positive Speech

Bible Book: Ephesians  4 : 29
Subject: Encouragement; Speech, Biblical; Words; Kindness; Judgment of Others

Ephesians 4:29

Encouragement requires positive speech and to have positive speech we must avoid criticism, rudeness and hostility toward each other. Many people feel that criticism is necessary for success. Parents are afraid they'll be settling for mediocrity if they complement a child for making "Bs". Coaches are afraid they'll be sanctioning laxity if they complement their players for slight improvements. Unfortunately, if you wait for perfection, you'll never affirm anyone. Furthermore, the affirmation actually helps to move a person toward a goal.

The individual may not be all we'd wish, but if they're better than they were before, then our best response is to give them some encouragement, some time and some wiggling room. So, we should affirm and reward people when they take the first step in the right direction! This will strengthen them to take the next step.

A man said, "My furnace went out in January. The repairman came and announced, 'You need a new boiler. It'll cost about five thousand dollars.' I pleaded, can't the old one be patched? He shook his head. 'And beside that, you have a lot of asbestos that's got to be removed. It'll be three weeks before you can get an appointment.'

"I gulped. It was below zero, and my wife was ill. I could see our home freezing and our pipes bursting. Then, unexpectedly, I managed to get an appointment to remove the asbestos the next day. By that afternoon, the job was completed, and we received a clean-air certificate. The next morning the new furnace arrived, and by early evening it was up and purring. Our home never even cooled down.

The following morning I called the furnace company to express my appreciation. I asked where I could send a thank-you note. There was a long silence. Then my call was transferred from department to department. Finally, I was told, 'Mr. Greener, I'm sorry, we don't know where you can send such a letter. You see, all we ever receive are complaints.' "

Isn't that sad? As Christians, we need to have positive speech toward each other.

To have positive speech:


A lady said, "One day, while having lunch with my friend Sue, I asked her why, in the years I had known her, I had never heard her speak an unkind word about anyone. She just smiled and reaching into her purse, pulled out a small, flat, ordinary-looking stone with the word, 'First,' written on it in fading blue ink, 'My mother gave this to me years ago,' she explained. Whenever I open my purse, there it is to remind me that I'm not yet qualified to throw it. Remember, Jesus said only those without sin are qualified to criticize.'

Sometimes we can be critical without saying a word. If a fellow church-member is being personally abused, say, 'I'm feeling very uncomfortable about what we're discussing. Since this person isn't here to defend themselves, we can't be certain this is true. So, let's be careful and fair in what we say. I'm sure we wouldn't want to damage a reputation'."

One woman said, "They say. 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me'; but I never believed that. As a child I was hurt a lot more by words than I was ever hurt by sticks or stones. As I look back over my childhood, I can remember only fourteen words any teacher ever spoke to me. In the fourth grade she said, 'Any dummy can understand long division! What's the matter with you? Are you stupid'?"

The one big mistake most of us make in trying to win an argument is in attacking the ego of the other person. You must learn to work with human nature, rather than against it. Tell a person that his ideas are stupid, and he will defend them all the more. Ridicule his position, and he has to defend it to save face. Use threats, or scare tactics, and he simply closes his mind against your ideas, regardless of how good they may be.

One of the strongest urges in human nature is self-survival, and this means survival of ego as well as the body. Criticism just doesn't work!

Jesus said, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned . . ." (Luke 6:37).

As Christians, we must avoid criticism of each other. Paul said, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things" (Rom. 2:1).

Then, to have positive speech:


A wise man said, "We need to practice talking like people in heaven talk. That means I mustn't grumble and complain anymore. I mustn't talk about other people's faults. I mustn't say things behind their backs that I wouldn't like them to say about me."

Jesus would say, "In heaven we aren't rude. Furthermore, on earth there are plenty of people who judge and blame. I don't need Christians to do that."

Now, suggesting improvement is not quite the same as criticism. An air-traffic controller explained, "You know, a pilot coming in for a landing is a good example of the use of successful constructive criticism. Frequently his flying must be criticized by the tower. If he's off course, if he's coming in too low, if he's going to overshoot the field, he is corrected. Yet, I've never heard one of our pilots being offended by this kind of criticism. I've never heard one say, 'Aw, he's always finding fault with my flying. Why can't he say something good for a change?'" This is legitimate criticism because it's professional and impersonal. Furthermore, it's given politely and unemotionally."

It's interesting that whenever Jesus spoke on earth, "The people were always amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth." (See, Luke 4:22).

Love is the opposite of rudeness. Researchers have found that the inability to really talk to each other on a deep level is the root cause of most fractured relationships. We have become masters of negative comments instead of masters of "gracious words."

One of the most moving scenes in the musical Fiddler on the Roof comes when Tevye, the struggling Jewish peasant, asks his wife if she loves him. She brushes off the question and retorts that she washes his clothes, scrubs the floors, looks after the home and raises their children. But that doesn't satisfy Tevye, so he asks again, "But, do you love me?" only to have her rehearse other things she does for him. Still not satisfied, he asks the question a third time, but she can't and won't say it. Of course she loves him, and he knows it, but he desperately needs to hear her say it. We all need to hear "gracious words" to be assured that our family and friends care.

As Christians we must avoid rudeness toward each other. Paul said, "Love is patient, love is kind . . . It is not rude . . ." (I Cor. 13:4-5)

Later he said, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph. 4:29).

Finally, to have positive speech:


Dr. William Glasser, founder of Reality Therapy, cites seven deadly habits that destroy relationships. They are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing and manipulating. He further proposes seven "connecting" habits that will give us the tools we need to build satisfying relationships. They are caring, trusting, listening, supporting, negotiating, befriending and encouraging.

Once a pet owner watched his cat move from a dark shady area into a patch of sunlight to take its nap. She said, "As I watched the little animal move out of the shadows and follow the sun, I thought about a woman I knew. We exchanged meals and planned outings together. But every time I was with her, I ended up talking negatively about others and being disgruntled with life in general. One night as we drove home from her house, my husband said, 'I can't believe how down you were on everything tonight. I've never heard you criticize old Miss Laney before, and you acted as if you were totally against that new kids' program at church. What's wrong?' The answer was simple: Being with this particular individual brought out the worst in me. I'm not saying that my behavior was her fault. For all I know, I had an equally negative influence on her. But I knew I had to remedy the situation. So I began to spend less time with negative people, who made it easier for me to gripe and grouch, and more time with positive people who brought out the best in me. The same principle holds true in other areas of my life. If driving on a stacked-up freeway makes me angry, I can find another route. If I'm in a church group where the emphasis is on criticizing other religions, I can step out of the shadows and find a brighter patch of life."

As Christians we must avoid situations that trigger our hostility toward each other. Jesus said, "If you say bad things to your brother, you will be judged" (See Matt. 5:22, EDB).

Paul said, "Speak no evil about anyone . . . be gentle and polite to all people" (Titus 3:2. EDB).


Encouragement includes avoiding criticism, rudeness and hostility. Words do great damage. My father told me this story over 60 years ago (I think it was to help me overcome my violent temper). "Once there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down, as he discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. So his father suggested that he pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed. and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, 'You have done well, my son, but look at the holes. That fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave scars.' "

Jesus was very blunt and clear on this subject. He said, "Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken" (Matt. 12:36).

On the other hand, the right words can do great things for us. A gardener said, "My neighbor commented to me, 'Your flowers by the road make me happy just to see them every time I pass. Those words gave me joy as I pulled weeds from the flowers all through the summer.'"

Sometimes we don't realize that we praise God by praising others. Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40).

Will you praise God by avoiding criticism? Will you praise God by avoiding rudeness? Will you praise God by avoiding hostility? The Scripture says, "Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may simulate to love and helpful deeds and noble activities; Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging-one another . . ." (Heb. 10:24-25a, Amp).