Is Your Speech Gracious Or Are You An Impatient Yeller?

Written by Mark Wickersham, ECS Director of Spiritual Formation

Next month, Rosalie will graduate from collegeGrace Noel will graduate from high school, and Josiah Lee will enter middle school. What?! How did this happen? Time certainly flies! Despite our countless parenting mistakes, our kiddos have done okay. They kept up with their studies, contributed to their clubs and teams, gained valuable work experience and skills, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, they follow Christ. Thank you, Jesus. This is all God’s grace and ALL the glory belongs to Him.

Sometimes I receive praise for how our kiddos turned out, but I’ve made a TON of parenting mistakes that I wish I could take back. I wish I could tell you that I never yelled at my kids, never exasperated them like a little boy, and never showed them my mean Wick face. This would be false though. At times, I’ve been an impatient and ungrateful dad. It doesn’t have to be this way, and I want to help you to not repeat my mistakes. Colossians 4:6 says, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. I memorized that verse over two decades ago when I felt a leader didn’t give me the full picture.

How do you respond to your children and others when they question your authority, try to deceive you, or give you the cold shoulder? Is your speech gracious (kind and courteous) and seasoned with salt (preserving Christ’s loving message) or do you fly off the rails, finger point, and run wild like a WWE wrestler? How would you feel if a camera was on you 24/7 and all of your home interactions were played at a chapel or church service? I’m pretty confident that things aren’t always looking pretty in your home.

So how can we be gracious with our speech, seasoned with salt, regardless of how we’re treated or what our circumstances are? How can we tame our tongue and use our words so that we draw our children and others to Christ? Below are four simple but powerful ways to encourage and build up our children and those around us with our words.

1. Look to Christ and tap into the Spirit. Philippians 4:13, an often misquoted verse, says I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me. This verse doesn’t mean that we can accomplish any task in front of us, but it does mean that regardless of the hardship we face, we can respond with gracious speech like Christ. Look at Christ’s example and through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, have Him guide you in what you say (and don’t say) and how you say it.

2. Pray Constantly. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says never stop praying. Prayer should be a lifestyle, not just something we do before meals or when we want something. If we are constantly communicating with God, thanking Him, confessing our sins, pleading with Him, and praying for others, our words will be more gracious. Prayer brings us closer to God so we better serve our children and the people God places in our lives. 

3. Meditate on Scripture. Fix your mind on God’s Word and think deeply about it. Don’t just read James 1:19; meditate on it! Emptying your mind isn’t found in the Bible. We should fill our minds with verses like James 1:19 which says, Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Doing so makes me much more likely to speak words of grace and display Christ to my children and others.

4. Remember we will be judged for our words. Matthew 12:36 says, I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. I know this verse may not be at the top of your favorite Bible verses list, but it’s important to remember that when Christ returns, we will be held accountable for our words and actions. Having that at the forefront of my mind motivates me to do what is right. We should want to please God in all that we think, say, and do so we can hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Having gracious speech, seasoned with salt, isn’t always easy, but it can be done. It should be done. Our children need this and so do others. If we look to Christ, tap into the Spirit, pray constantly, meditate on Scripture, and remember we will be rewarded for the good we do, our speech will grow in grace and bring God the glory. Do it. Speak words of grace and bring God the glory. 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14