Have you ever reacted in the moment and spoke before your brain had time to think about what you were going to say? It is often referred to as “foot in mouth” disease. Christians tend to call it the “Peter syndrome”, since Peter had a habit of speaking before thinking in the Gospels. Honestly, I think sometimes it should be called the “Justin” syndrome, because I have been guilty of it more times than I care to imagine. Therefore, what Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6 was specifically stinging to me. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
The “real” issue with speaking before thinking is a heart issue. Jesus said in Matthew 15 that everything proceeds from our heart. Therefore, when we have an angry outburst or we lash out at someone, we are revealing that there is unresolved, unconfessed, and unrepented of anger in our heart. Because this is an issue of our heart, it is something that only God can truly deal with. We can try harder, but at best we are only covering up the symptoms, we are not dealing with the root cause of the problem. Lashing out in anger reveals a lack of self-control. We may not like to think of it this way, but lashing out at someone is the adult version of a toddler’s temper tantrum. It is a way to manipulate a situation or a person in an effort to get what we want. That is hard to read isn’t it? I know it is, because it is convictional to me. Yet, there is hope because there is a God of grace. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. If you are saved, then the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, which means you have the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:23) already. It may not be full grown fruit yet, but it is there. And by being confronted with a painful reality, God is again showing His grace toward you, and giving you an opportunity to grow in Him.
That conviction that we feel, either over this or some other sin, is part of what Paul was writing about in Colossians 4:6. Salt has two functions. The first is it is purifying. Salt can be a healing agent. However, for it to have its effect, it is going to sting. Have you ever got salt into a cut? It hurts doesn’t it? But it also helps heal that cut, and can help kill some bacteria that may be in the cut. Spiritually speaking, this is the role of conviction. When the Spirit reveals our sin to us, we feel that conviction. Like salt, it stings and we don’t want it anymore. However, when it does its work, just like the salt, conviction by the Spirit heals. It doesn’t heal a cut, instead it heals our heart. The second function of salt is it is preserving. Salt can be used to cure meat to keep it good to eat longer. Hearing the truth about ourselves, although painful, can lead us to life. If we are Christian, we should act like it and speak like it. This means, God has to deal with any and all sin in our life, so that we will grow in our walk with God and be prepared to spend all of eternity with Him. With these things in mind, how should it shape our speech with others?
- Think twice, tweet once. This certainly applies to more than just social media, but the principle is to take a step back, think about what you are going to say, ask yourself is this really necessary, and is this the kindest most loving way I can say it? If it isn’t necessary and it isn’t the best way to say it, then we shouldn’t say it (or type it). I know in the moment it may feel good to get that quick witted comeback on them, but in the end it won’t feel good, and it won’t help the situation. Our goal is not to win an argument, it is to influence a soul towards Jesus and harsh, critical, snarky words will not do that.
- Surrender your emotions to God. Behind a quick witted comeback, snarky remark, or flying off the handle moment is a lack of self-control. It is an example of allowing your emotions to rule over you, instead of you ruling over your emotions. This has become dramatically worse in our society since the end of March with the lockdowns and restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. Emotion is a good thing, because it is something given to us by God. We can read in the Gospels how Jesus expressed His emotions. The key difference is that Jesus was always in control of His emotions. He never reacted in the moment. You can feel when you are starting to get on the emotional edge, and you need to learn to recognize that so that you can step back before you act. When we react in the moment, it doesn’t solve the problem, it often escalates the problem, and it always leads you to having to go back and apologize for what you said. Ask the Lord to grow you in self-control. He wants you to be like Him, He will help you grow in this area because He desires for you to grow in Christlikeness.
- Never speak when your heart is hurt. This goes back to the first point here. Most of the time, we lose our cool and spout off at the mouth not because we are angry, but because we are hurt. The greatest pain comes from those that we love the greatest. If we didn’t care about the person, then what they said about us wouldn’t matter to us as much. Hurt often comes out as anger. Therefore, when you are angry, it is best to stay silent. Step back and ask yourself, why am I angry? What is the hurt? How do you know when to speak? When you can talk about it without getting emotional or reliving the moment, then you are ready to address it.
- Be quick to forgive and quicker to apologize. As fallen humans, we are going to allow our emotions to get the best of us from time to time. It is often easier to feel justified in our reaction than it is to feel guilty for what we said. Yet, as a Christian we are called to love others the way that Christ loves us (see John 13:34-35). We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us (see Eph. 4:32). That means we forgive completely and unconditionally, not because they deserve it, but because God loves them and so do we. The person who hurt us may never apologize, but if we inflicted hurt, we must apologize. We sometimes say, “I’ll apologize when they apologize.” This is the wrong attitude for Christians. If we were wrong, we need to own it, even if they never do.
All of these things hopefully show us our utter desperation for Jesus and His grace. None of this is possible without Him living inside of us, and working through us. Don’t allow Satan to condemn you for something Christ has already forgiven you for. Instead, seek God’s help and grow in His grace. Speak to others the way Jesus has spoken to you, and see how your relationships with others change.
By His grace and for His glory,