Words. Which ones do you use?

Your favourite football team’s performance is going from bad to worse – and they throw the game away right at the end, again. What do you say? (Be honest!) You listen to your political leaders, while deeply and fervently disagreeing with the decisions that they are making. How do you respond? Your neighbours are yet again playing their music excessively loud. How will you speak about them?

Whatever response we have, it always involves words. And it begs the question… what words do you use?

When you are frustrated?

When people are frustrated, one direction we frequently chose is to tear people down. We see it in the way politicians speak of and to “the Opposition”. We hear it from fans at the footy when they swear at the opposition or even their own players who fail to meet their expectations. We see it on social media in the comments. In fact, it’s so common we have terminology like “trolling” to describe the online baiting and abuse that sadly some practise just for fun. We hear it in the language of shock jocks as they rudely shut down (and cut off) those who think differently to them.

All these responses can only be considered “peace-breaking” responses.

But it’s not only the words we use in frustration that it’s worth considering. What about…

When you are with your friends?

Standing around the BBQ with your mates, sitting at the café with your Saturday morning breakfast group, chatting in the staff kitchen or over morning tea after the staff meeting, what words do you use?

For many in Australia, a way of speaking about and to our friends includes what can be described as, ‘put down humour’. Humour that is orientated towards making fun of the other person. It’s by and large an accepted part of Australian culture. It’s understood that the words that put down the other are said in jest and can in fact be an affirmation of friendship. As peacemakers though, it’s worth considering, is this a practice of our culture that reflects scripture? Are these words we should be using?

What does scripture teach?

The scriptural call is clear when it comes to the words we are to use; build up. Consider for example these verses:

Encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thes 5:11) or

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29) or,

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Rom 14:19)

Words are important. Scripture teaches us that the words Jesus calls on us to use to love others are words that build up not tear down.

Even if it’s culturally accepted to tear down those we are frustrated with or use put down humour, should we as followers of Jesus, peacemakers, use these same words? As people called to be light of the world, is this an area that we have a chance to do just this by responding in love towards those whom we are frustrated with? And by consciously choosing words that build up rather than put down others to our friends.

Your response – will you do anything differently?

There will no doubt be differing answers to these questions, particularly when it comes to the use of put down humour. I am OK with this. My hope is that in reading this article we might pause for a moment to consider what words you and I use. And consider, do these words reflect the love of Jesus, who while we were his enemies, invited us to follow him, and who bore our sins on the cross?

Or take some time to look at the “slippery slope”, which explains the different possible responses we can choose to deal with conflict – good and bad!.

This article was written by Wayne Forward.

Wayne has a diverse work back ground across Mental Health Nursing and Christian Ministry in which he has worked in a variety of leadership and training roles. He has formal studies in Nursing, Theology, Coaching & Training and is currently undertaking master’s studies in missional leadership. He currently serves as the CEO of PeaceWise.

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