Why you say it
We have addressed what you say and how you say it, but the “WHY of what you say” is the hinge on which the other two swing. I must confess that this is not a strong area for me being outgoing (I often talk before I think), an emotionally driven individual (I wear my feelings on my face), someone who does not fear confrontation, and a do-er (I like to get straight to the point), so I try my best to always consider WHY I am about to enter in a conversation. In emails, I will read through the message several times to make sure that it is sincere, genuine, personal, and with no ulterior motives.
Here are some questions to ask ourselves about WHY we say it:
Is there any sin in my heart toward this person?
My pastor uses the phrase, “check yourself before you wreck yourself”. It’s such a good reminder that our heart leads our mouth and if there is unforgiveness, bitterness, or frustration within, we can expect it to pour out in our conversation.
Matthew 7:3-5 reminds us to examine our own faults before calling out someone else’s. And even when we do address it, it should always be with the purpose of helping someone get better.
Not even with confrontation, but just in conversation, we need to make sure that we are not speaking out of jealousy or insecurity, pride or comparison.
Am I too personally invested in this issue to address it objectively?
I actually got an email yesterday that made me question my ability as an assistant. I took others’ comments personally and even projected their opinion of me through the words of the email. I realized that I was not able to respond to it objectively, because I would write out of insecurity and not confidence in Christ. Before responding to the email, I needed to pray, ask God for forgiveness, rest my security in Him, and then I could address the topic and not personalize the issue.
This often happens when discussing processes and procedures in the workplace, because (maybe I am the only one, but) we tend to believe our way of doing something is the best way, and when someone questions or suggests a different way, we can become defensive. Let’s step back, listen, and at least consider the advice. They may see something that we don’t because we are personally invested in it.
SIDENOTE: Within ministry, there will always be a tension between stewardship of resources and leadership of people. Andy Stanley shares a leadership podcast on "managing tension" that I would highly recommend. More on this topic at another time!
How am I expecting this conversation to end? Is there an ulterior motive?
Proverbs 20:5 says that the purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. When talking, emailing or calling someone, let’s be honest about the reason we are sharing and seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help us understand their motives. The more we can get to the root of the discussion, the better we will be able to address the problem, edify people, and advance the Kingdom.
A few weeks ago, I was having a really tough day. There were some personal issues I was navigating through and my mind was adding layers to my cake of frustration. I went to the kitchen at lunch to get a fork and couldn’t find one anywhere. (Isn’t it funny how the littlest things will take us over the edge?) I came back to my desk area and complained loudly, “Are there ANY forks in this place?” Immediately my friend brought me to the kitchen, opened the cabinet, took out a fork for me, and then looked at me and kindly asked, “Is this about more than a fork?” She solved the problem, but with Holy Spirit wisdom was able to get to the bottom of my WHY.
Finally, WHY am I sharing this information?
Throughout scripture we are cautioned about the power of our words and the consequences of speaking thoughtlessly. Before letting our mouth get us in trouble, we should heed the advice in Proverbs 17 & 18-
Proverbs 17:28-Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
Proverbs 18:21- The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
When in doubt, a mouth shut will always keep you safer than a mouth wide open.
By preparing what we say, understanding how to say it, and examining why we say it, we can be confident that our conversations are spoken at the proper time, using respectful language, and with pure hearts.