THE TEACHING TONGUE

How to Speak about Others Who Offend You

angry young woman with megaphone shouting at stressed scared man blown away by wave of alphabet letters

It is said of the virtuous woman that “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).

We are always giving instruction to others by the words we use–especially in the training of our children. A unique challenge occurs when we’ve been offended by someone.

How we talk about that person speaks volumes to others–especially the kiddos.

The apostle Paul gives us the ultimate standard for a tongue of kindness:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

I came across a powerful example of this in D. A. Carson’s book about his Dad–Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

It seems that at one point in his ministry, Pastor Tom Carson experienced a painful conflict with another pastor who treated him quite poorly.

As son Don relates the story, he only learned of the conflict years later. When he eventually brought the matter up, he quizzed his dad about why he never told the kids about any of it.

Tom explained that both he and his wife, Marge, wanted to protect their own souls from bitterness. So they took a vow that neither would ever say an unkind thing about the other pastor–and they kept that vow!

Daughter Joyce commented:

As I look back on life with Mom and Dad, perhaps the one thing I recall most vividly is the memory I don’t have. Try as I might, I cannot recollect one time when either of them spoke negatively about another person. Although Mom was an extremely astute judge of character, her analyses were well seasoned with grace and the latent potential for redemption (60).

What kind of talk comes out of your mouth in a conflict? Is it corrupt or kind? Does it tear down or build up? Does it give grief or grace to those who hear–especially the most impressionable?

The next time you are tempted to speak critically of someone else, choose the teaching of kindness on your tongue–void of bitterness, well seasoned with grace, and born of the latent potential for redemption.

Question: How would your children or friends describe your speech about others with which you are at odds?

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