Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you ought to answer each person. –Colossians 4:6
The Bible has some scary words—Hell, suffering, persecution are a few such words. But the word “always” in the above verse might take the cake. I mean, I’m pretty good at letting my speech be gracious on certain occasions—like at funerals or something. Yep, at a funeral I seldom let ungracious words, coarse joking, or empty talk escape my mouth—I hold it in the way my wife holds her breath for luck when we drive across bridges. At work, too, I do a pretty good job, remembering that I don’t know these people well enough to be as rude as I’d like to be to them, so I steady my tongue the best I can.
But always, really? Even when someone cuts me off in traffic? Even when I get home from work, I’m tired, and I want nothing more than to just cut into my wife with my words? Even when I’m around my best buddies and we get to talking like thick-necked inmates? Always, really?
But that is what God’s Word prescribes, and here are the two things I am learning about that concept.
1) It works.
Seriously, when I decide not to gossip—even when dropping that juicy secret would feel so very, very good—I don’t get pulled back into a messy situation. When I decide to bite my tongue rather than another person with my words, I encounter far less conflict. When I refrain from yapping about someone behind his or her back, I find it easier to be loving to his or her face.
These choices, when made, likely don’t make me the most fun person to be around, but I can’t think of a single spot in Scripture in which we are told, “Go therefore into all the world and absolutely be the life of the party.” By honoring people with my words and muffling ungracious speech, I’ll likely preclude myself from ever getting a talk show on the E! Network, but I think I can handler that (puns, even lame ones, surely can’t be considered ungracious!).
Simply put, my relationships improve—EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!—when I aim to be gracious in my speech. My sequel to the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People could be a nine-word manuscript reading: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”
2) I can’t do it.
In and of myself, yeah, I slip into ungracious speech. I tell jokes I shouldn’t—like the one about the nun, the sailor, and the camel’s hump . . . see what I mean? I cut people down. I’ll manipulate, making passive aggressive comments meant to undermine, to deceive, to run down. I’ll use a tone with my wife and other loved ones, that essentially communicates, “You don’t matter, not one little bit.”
I hate it.
I want to be gracious in my speech, even when I really, really don’t want to be. I want to have control over my tongue (the Bible elsewhere likens it to the rudder of a ship), and I want to build people up or simply say nothing at all. And to do this, with any measure of success at all, I need God. I need to preach His truth to myself in each and every conversation. I need to constantly be reminding myself—in every single conversation—“Be gracious, be gracious, be gracious.” I need to recognize the power of words, and their deadly impact to the souls around me. I need to trust His power and lean not on my own understanding of situations. I need to view the maddening jerks around me as creations of the Living God, and give an appropriate reverence for that creation.
And even in doing all that—and memorizing verses like Colossians 4:6—I’ll still mess up. Even today probably. But even so, that doesn’t undo the command of “Always.” Even when I lose control of my speech, always begins anew, laid out before me, a beautiful, unending challenge to be wiser and to be better.
So here’s to today, and another chance at always gracious speech.