I know you have been on the wrong end of someone who is trying to correct you but with the seemingly most evil intention. As they reprimanded you, you saw the anger in the eyes, heard the demeaning tone of their voice and the self-righteous pedestal they stood on. You walked away from that interaction with a new realization. You made a decision to stay away from them at all cost. Instead of a friend or family member who had your back, you placed them in a metaphorical phone booth you’d never call if you ever needed anything in life.
Now they thought fear and anger and belittling would get your attention, make you change, transform your direction in life. But in fact, it did the opposite. And, by the way, that is not at all how Jesus calls us to interact with each other.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that the tongue is hard to control (James 3) and it’s so true. Paul calls us to a different way of living, the Jesus way in Ephesians 4:29-5:1. Paul reminds us in that text that kind of behavior is of the world and it brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit. That is an emotional response for the Spirit of God. I know God listens to our conversations and he’s hurt that his followers would speak to each other with anger, fear, loathing, and a belittling attitude.
Paul encourages the church (that’s us) to mature in our faith and be more like Jesus. He calls us to ignore cultural tendencies and cultural scripts in Ephesians 4:14 and says when we mature in Christ, we’ll be different. In verse 15 Paul says speak truth to one another in love. It’s so important we continue to speak the truth of how Jesus has called us to follow him but with the understanding first, I have the love of Jesus in my very soul…that my heart is full of love and grace and mercy for those with whom I’m interacting.
Paul shows us what this looks like as he writes the church in Corinth. This congregation had some issues and Paul is trying to get them to be the church that Jesus would want them to be. Although he is correcting them all through the letters, he uses phrases like “my beloved children” and “my brothers and sisters”. He’s reminding them of his love for them and his desire that they act and live like Jesus has transformed them.
So some questions you can ask yourself as you step into the lives of people you’re trying to influence for good. “Is my motive to help or to hurt?” Often we want to “pay back” someone for the way they spoke to us. We are called to help one another.
“Am I saying this because it will make me feel better or help them?” Sometimes, we just want to get something off our chest because we’ll feel better and say it in such a way we leave a train wreck in our wake.
Finally, “What does my tone communicate?” Body language and intonation make up as much as 93% of what we say. Our tone can build bridges or walls. If we truly want transformation, Jesus calls us to build bridges.
So be people who speak truth IN LOVE. Be Jesus. Be kind. Use every opportunity to change the world for the better. Blessings on your journey.