This past week, Steve and I have had the opportunity to visit several out-of-state friends. Honestly, it’s been so life-giving! We’ve had great conversations about the Lord and what He’s been teaching all of us, our kids and what’s happening in each of their lives, and our shared memories together. I have savored these visits. Each of the friends we’ve had time with have been uplifting and encouraging. It’s not that they didn’t share their sorrows and challenges. We all did that. It’s that they affirmed and encouraged. They brought life to our conversation.
The wise writer of Proverbs wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). The Apostle Paul wrote, “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29). The word, “unwholesome” means, decayed, rotten, and speaks of death. In other words, choose words of faith that give life. Jesus Himself said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words, you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). We will be held accountable for how we use our tongues. Scary thought!
How do we use our tongues to bring life to others rather than despair? How do we use our tongues in such a way that we won’t be embarrassed at the end of our life because of the words we’ve spoken? How do we set boundaries around this tiny but powerful instrument of our body?
3 Delightful Ways to Bring Life to Your Friends from Proverbs 18
Delight in seeking to understand. “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2). We are in love with our own opinions. If you doubt that statement just scroll through social media. There are plenty of opinions on everything! Opinions aren’t wrong. They help define who we are. But, if you’re airing your opinions without respectfully listening to the opinions of others, you are being foolish. It’s just not necessary to share your view on everything. Some thoughts are just better left unsaid, particularly when you are trying to build a relationship. You don’t have to sacrifice your views. You can own your own opinions, you just don’t have to share them all. Often when we feel the need to state our view on every little matter, it’s because we feel insecure and we’re trying to persuade another to agree with us. Honestly, we can have relationships without agreeing on everything. Instead, delight in seeking to understand.
Delight in building others up. “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8). A good rule of thumb is, in your conversations, don’t cast another person in a bad light and don’t share confidential information. Paint others in a positive light. If you have concerns, pray and process with God. At times there’s a need to process with a wise friend or counselor, but don’t share beyond that. Scripture is so clear on gossip – it’s wrong. So, stop. Instead, make it your goal to find something positive about each person and speak about those qualities to others.
Delight in learning to listen incarnationally. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Ouch! Convicting, right? Allow the other person to completely finish their thoughts before you answer, give an opinion or say anything at all. In other words, be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Make it your practice to offer others the presence of Christ through incarnational listening. When your friends pour out their hearts, make it your practice to put your hand over your mouth. Lean in and listen. Don’t offer suggestions for how to solve the problem. Simply listen and pray silently in your heart that your friend will experience the presence of Christ through you.
As we reflect back on 2020 many of us felt isolated and lonely. We missed being with our friends and family. Now that life is opening up a bit, spend some time thinking about your relationships. Consider, how do you want God to use you to encourage others? How can you help others feel valued and loved? The COVID pandemic brought a wonderful opportunity for us to pause and consider our relationships. Treasure them. Delight in seeking to understand, building others up, and learning to listen incarnationally. My guarantee to you is that every relationship will grow and flourish.
Mother’s Day is Coming!
With Mother’s Day coming, why not treat a Mama you know to a copy of How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk? Every Mama I know wants a strong relationship with her kids. This tiny book is packed with suggestions for how to improve your relationship with your kids.