Intentional Words

Read: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

Reflect: For years I wondered why it was so easy to offend people with my words, especially when I confront someone. After all, I don’t mean any harm; I’m just speaking my mind. Then Jesus, the Teacher, showed me that, while I don’t intend any harm, my words are not intentional; I’m not putting enough thought into what I say before I say it. So I decided to become more intentional with my words.

To use words more intentionally, I’ve learned to ask three questions before I confront someone. “Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said now?” Some time and reflection might reveal that intervention is not necessary, and these words don’t need to be said. I might also realize that I have no influence with this person. Since influence and responsibility go together, without influence I have no responsibility to intervene. And if I have no responsibility, I’ll likely have little influence with the people involved. So maybe it doesn’t need to be said by me. And perhaps, now is not the best time.

I also realize that, if the answer to the three questions is yes, communication is far more productive when I speak with four “S” words –Soft and Slow, Short and Sweet. Speaking loud and fast, for a long time with a negative tone, produces involuntary defensive arousal in listeners, dramatically reducing communication. But if it needs to be said now and by me, the four “S” words can be “A spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.” (Thank you, Mary Poppins).

React: Before you confront someone, ask yourself the three questions, and if the answer is yes, then employ the four “S” words.

Pray: O Lord, let the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight.