Ephesians 4:29 “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.”
Unwholesome talk is never pleasant. It doesn’t look good on those who use it, and it is harmful to those who hear it. In the moment it may seem appealing and provide temporary relief for pent up anger, but in the end it only does damage. Yet this kind of talk can show up anywhere, even in the most unlikely of places. It’s somewhat like poison ivy!
This is the time of year when everyone is out in the yard. Farmers are spraying, homeowners are mowing, and gardeners are weeding. I love the array of colors I see all over the countryside. Flowers of many different hues have burst forth and the crops are growing in the fields. So I decided to join the fun by sprucing up our yard and taking back the flowerbed at the front of the house.
I am not an avid horticulturist. In fact, I really love low-maintenance gardens. Enjoying the beauty with as little work as possible is my dream come true. But realizing some work has to be done, I set out to tackle the flowerbed. All in all it looked pretty good when I finished, but the next day I noticed an itchy spot on my arm. By the following day it had spread into a full-blown poison ivy attack. Apparently poison ivy is not just for the woods. It can grow in the most unlikely of places — even your front flowerbed. It is a week later and I am still itching and applying cortisone regularly.
All unwholesome talk — criticism, gossip, slander, vulgarities, and more — is like that. It blends in with other conversation easily. Sometimes we think we are just expressing the truth as we see it. Other times we are just trying to get the facts, or releasing our pent up frustration over a situation out of our control. But often our conversations are tainted with the hidden poison of unkindness and misunderstanding. Our words tear down people or stir up conflict with others.
This problem can occur anywhere, even in the most unlikely of places. Who would have guessed poison ivy would be showing its glossy leaves hidden among purposefully planted bushes and perennials? Too often corrupt conversation occurs amongst God’s people — even within the church. Our personal perspectives and questions can degenerate into people bashing and sharp criticism. The wounds we cause can blister, itch, and spread until many are hurt and suffering. This is never a good testimony for a child of God.
Conflict is inevitable since we live in a sinful world. But how we handle disagreements or difficult circumstances is crucial. Instead of speaking thoughtlessly, let your words reflect God’s love. Bear with each other patiently. Build others up according to their needs and speak in a way that will bless those who listen. God will be glorified, and you will protect yourself and others from a toxin even worse than poison ivy.
Sandra Sheridan is a midwest wife and mother of five. She shares her letters to her children with our readers. Visit her at www.VersesFromMama.com.