I don’t know many things. But if recent events have taught me anything, these two things I know:
- We live in controversial times.
- Our world needs Jesus.
We’re reminded of this need with each new legislative ruling and celebrity moral failure. We see it in the circumstances of our loved ones and the struggles of our daily lives. Yet it saddens me how quickly we—me included—turn to voicing our own opinions, instead of turning to the Voice every heart longs to hear.
In a social-media age, opinions grow like weeds—haphazardly and without benefit. No sooner does news break than our feeds are flooded with positions, perspectives, and persuasion. Some accurate. Most off-the-cuff. Many harmful.
I recently wrote about the opportunity we have to stay silent and wait for the Lord in times like this. When the world goes crazy. But permanent silence isn’t always an option.
What do you do when you feel prompted to speak? To your friend, family member, or a larger public audience? When your circumstances and convictions require you to voice your perspective, how do you handle it? Oh man, I wish I knew. I struggle with these things like everyone. Finding the right word at the right time for the right person. As a communicator I always have something to share, and I’m learning to cultivate my perspectives to be of greatest benefit.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV).
Let me share a few beneficial insights I’ve learned when my world goes crazy:
1. Check your Motivation
As believers, our job is to be the light of the world, not the spirituality police. A city set on the hill doesn’t get bogged down in the gossip of the valley. The purpose of our light is not to reform the unbeliever, but to attract him/her to Christ. This means I’m constantly in a state of checking my motivation. Am I writing this for the buzz or shock factor? Is this conversation for my benefit or to benefit my audience?
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).
2. Cultivate your Heart
When my heart stirs with a noble theme, I ask God to cultivate it. Sometimes this step is the hardest as I seek to understand the Lord’s perspective on a topic—not just popular opinion or my gut reaction. I must first choose silence before the Lord and then speak after I’ve received His words. Otherwise, my words may come with spirit but lack God’s holiness.
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13, ESV).
3. Consider your Audience
If I speak, I must speak with intention, and with careful consideration of my audience. Who are they? Where are they coming from? Do they know enough about me to understand where I’m coming from? Above all, I must communicate grace and compassion. Everyone needs LOVE. All. The. Time.
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24, ESV).
4. Craft your Message
After I’ve checked my motivation, let God cultivate my heart, and considered my audience, I can then craft my message. Even in difficult conversations or times of correction and instruction, I want to build up the hearer in love. I fail at this goal often, but the lofty objective remains. It’s worth the effort if by my simple words, God can plant seeds of His truth in someone’s life.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,” (2 Timothy 2:23-25, ESV).
5. Check Yourself
Before letting the words come from my mouth, or before hitting send, I try to get in the practice of a final gut check. Is this still pure? Is it appropriate for this time? Just because it’s truth, that doesn’t mean it qualifies to be communicated. I saw this great quote from Christine Caine the other day, “You should always believe everything you say but you should not always say everything you believe.”
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV).
I encourage you to watch your words, especially in the instant and permanent publishing of online media. If most of my status updates are complaints, I water down the truth of a future uplifting message. I’m not suggesting that you disguise what you’re going through, but use these first five steps and ask the Lord to edit out messages that are best left for private consumption.
6. Appeal to Authority
Anyone can put a subject on blast on Facebook. But the number of “likes” on my post does little to effect a change. If you find a subject you’re passionate about, appeal to leaders in positions of authority. Write your Congressman. Volunteer for an organization fighting for the same cause. If it’s on a personal level, organize an intervention or have a one-on-one conversation. Little is accomplished in the court of public opinion, but great things happen when we take personal action.
7. Continue in God’s Presence
Some of you are thinking you may never speak again. I’ve been there and reining in my tongue has never been a bad thing. But I’ve learned that the longer I continue in God’s presence, the quicker and easier this process becomes. Any time my words don’t taste of salt, I’ve spent too much time away from the Ocean.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV).
I hope these simple tips help you learn when and how to speak when the world goes crazy around you. Any tips you’d add to the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!