Have you ever met people who suck the energy out of others as soon as they open their mouths? Or people who would provoke a situation until it becomes more hostile than necessary? Those individuals fail to see the value in speaking life to others.
“Speaking life” simply means to speak out of a pure motive, with the intention of benefitting the hearer of your words. The Bible says, “[O]ut of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). This means that the words we say are clear reflections of our hearts. If we speak poison or hostility, it is a pretty good indicator that our hearts are full of bitterness. If we speak with honesty and gentleness, it indicates that we have godly and wise hearts.
To speak life, you must be wise. Those who are dead set on foolishness will refuse to see the value of wisdom. To truly be wise, you’ve got to develop a deep respect for the Lord—or, as the Bible calls it, “The fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7).
The book of Proverbs is perhaps one of the best books to teach wisdom, so we will explore it in depth. Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.” Indeed, there are no shortcuts to speaking life. We can fake our kindness and gild our words with gold, but our vain efforts will eventually fall through if we don’t match our words with what’s really in our hearts. To sustain a lifestyle of speaking life unto others, we must always start with the heart.
Teach yourselves to respect and fear the Lord by meditating on His word daily. Remind yourselves of His goodness in your lives by reflecting on the many times He has pulled you through. Pray to Him as much as you can so that you will have a deeper relationship with Him. Whether you’re in the workplace or in your bedroom, be aware of His presence surrounding you. All of these thoughtful actions will give you more knowledge of the Lord and will help you to love and respect Him all the more. Once you’ve developed a deep respect for the Lord, you will want to love and treat His children in a godlier way.
Proverbs 9:12 explains, “If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.” Ironically, in your quest to benefit others by speaking life, you will also benefit yourself. When you consistently pour out honest and good things with gentleness and self-control, people will eventually recognize your wisdom and give respect to God, whom you represent.
This is how you speak life: Speak kindly and truthfully at the right time. Perhaps the most important time for you to speak life is when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. In these common situations, this is how you exercise your newfound wisdom:
· When you’re angry – "Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out" (Proverbs 17:14). Before you decide to give the other party permission to make you angry, remember that it will not be life giving for neither of you to be quarrelsome. Proverbs describes this as “opening a floodgate,” meaning that it will only lead to more harm than good. Hold your tongue to save your energy and dignity. Speak again when you’re both calm.
· When you’re insulted – "A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted" (Proverbs 12:16). There will be many foolish people in this world that will seek attention and validation by provoking you with insults. Refuse to be quick-tempered. Instead, let them feed off your calmness by restraining your speech. If they’re out of control, explain that you will not engage in a tirade of insults and leave the premise until you’re both ready to speak respectfully.
· When your pride is hurt – "Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything" (Proverbs 13:3). In a situation where you feel like the other party is attacking you indirectly, refuse to attack back with equally stinging words. Instead, speak the truth calmly and confidently. Don’t let your ego take control. Rather, recognize that you are hurt and respond with kindness. If you can’t give kindness in the moment, just hold your tongue until you’re able to say what is wise and life-giving later on. Spouting off in the heat of the moment can “ruin everything.”
· When you’re giving advice – "The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray" (Proverbs 12:26). As a representative of God, people who normally aren’t religious will most likely seek your advice when they hit rock bottom. When giving advice, refrain from pouring fuel into the fire (ie. “You deserve to do whatever you want to make yourself feel good!”/“He’s such a jerk—show him that you can do better!”). Although validation is important and necessary, stray from foolish validation that will do more harm than good. Seek first the wisdom of God, and your advice could save lives ("The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives" [Proverbs 12:6]).
· When you’re tempted to lie – "The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips" (Proverbs 18:7). Lies are like knots; they will slowly entangle us and make us trip and fall. When you’re tempted to lie, remember your identity as God’s beloved. Proverbs 17:7 says, "Eloquent words are not fitting for a fool; even less are lies fitting for a ruler." You might not be a ruler, but you are coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). As someone whom God regards so highly, should you not keep your dignity by being honest? The honest person will always come out victorious over the liar.
· When you’re tempted to tell a crude joke – "The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words" –(Proverbs 15:28). The saying, “Think before you speak,” is indeed very biblical. Spontaneity and jokes are both good, but it doesn’t need to be crude or foolish. Think carefully and search your heart before you want to tell a crude joke. If it makes you seem foolish, it’s not worth it. Wise people prefer fitting replies more than the shocking element of crudeness, anyway.
· When you’re public speaking – "Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!" (Proverbs 15:23) When it is your turn to speak, use this opportunity to say wonderful things in truth. A wise person will be likeable in front of an audience, and her words will be persuasive because of her credibility. Foolish babble, on the other hand, will only incur more mockery on the speaker.
After you’ve done your homework on what God has to say about being wise, you’ll find that you needn’t do much speaking at all. Out of the eagerness of our hearts, we might want to show others that we are worthy of respect, but speaking too much or too soon could ruin everything we want to accomplish.
Even Proverbs 18:2 says, "Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions." This is why we must never skip on the behind-the-scenes “heart work.” Being even-tempered and having enough self-restraint to use few words takes discipline and maturity. God will grow these two areas in our lives if we surrender ourselves to Him. Get to know Him more and learn to respect His kingship in our lives. Then, you will find yourselves compelled to speak life unto others.