Last week I wrote about how opinions cause division.
In most cases, giving our opinion ends badly and just creates tension in relationships.
Yet there are a few situations where it’s valuable to speak up:
- When another person may be harmed if we don’t intervene, such as confronting sin. In many of these situations, it may be the Holy Spirit prompting us to speak, in which case it’s not us sharing an opinion, but speaking the truth of the Lord. (More on this next week!)
- When someone is seeking advice and is genuinely interested in what we have to say. Sometimes people get stuck in a situation, and just need a word of wisdom or inspiration.
- When someone challenges us to a conversation. Sometimes a congenial debate (when handled respectfully) is healthy, giving us a broader view of an issue and helping us see another perspective.
So how do we know when we ought to speak up?
Before we express our opinion, it’s best to pause and review if we should:
- Check heart motivation. Why do we feel the need to speak our mind? If we’re honest with ourselves, we know when we’re acting with selfish intent. If we think we’re superior in any way, that we’re the only one who can be right in this situation, that we know better than the other person, then we should probably not speak. As stated in my last blog, these attitudes only promote a negative atmosphere where no one listens to each other. Many times, we don’t even know we’re biased or prejudiced. But if we genuinely want the best for others and use a humble approach, the conversation will typically have a good outcome.
- Check sensitivity and self-control. When a specific topic is mentioned, how quickly do we become angry? When we’re enraged, we don’t think clearly, nor do we think kindly. Speech based in emotions doesn’t promote a positive atmosphere. There is a difference between passion and emotion. Passion is when we express our beliefs with composure and respect. Emotion is when we spew words without thinking, an approach is never respected by others. We’re told to be slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19) If we can’t handle the topic with honor, integrity, and self-control, then we don’t need to get involved in the conversation.
- Check vocabulary and tone. What words are being used and how are they being expressed? The Bible says that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). When we use words that are all-inclusive (never, always, etc), when we choose adjectives that are derogatory, and when we make general assumptions and personal accusations, we’ll only see negative responses to our opinions. But when we speak with words full of humility, compassion, and Bible-based truth, our thoughts will be received much better.
- Check the possible outcome. How is our opinion likely to be received by the listening party? What good will come out of the conversation? Is this the proper time to speak, or would another time be better? The Bible says that we are to do our best to live at peace with each other, to promote harmony rather than stirring up trouble (Romans 12:18). If our opinion is going to encourage peace and unity, then speaking up will honor God. If not, then maybe we need to keep our thoughts to ourselves.
For a practical example, let’s go back to the story of my son from last week (the lack of support over his future career choice), and review the checklist. Was the man:
- Speaking from a humble heart of love toward my son, or his own selfish bias?
- Speaking from a place of respect and self-control, or place of emotion?
- Using words that uplifted and encouraged, or harsh words of judgement?
- Choosing to be rude and offensive, or seeking to promote peace and harmony?
For my own part, I can think of several past conversations where I probably should have kept quiet!
Yet more important, is looking ahead to the future, how we can affect change in our communities and further the Kingdom of God. He wants us to speak life!
Ladies, let’s purpose in our hearts that before we open our mouths, we’ll consider whether God would want us to voice our opinions.