Think Before You Speak

Phil Christman

Read: James 1:19-27

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (v. 26)

Anxiety is a physical and emotional response to danger or uncertainty. It can be a disease. Unfortunately, it’s also something we often stir up for each other through our words. The way we make daily conversation can have a heavier moral and psychological impact on other people than we may like to admit.

As an anxious person, I have to watch how I talk to others, and how I let others talk to me. In today’s society, many of us are almost hobbyists of negativity—we believe and pass on every rumor about our workplace enemies, least favorite relatives, or political opponents. Whole TV channels are devoted to stoking phantom fears of other people. I can’t entirely avoid this stuff, but I don’t have to swim in it. If I do, my body lets me know: I’ll be panicky and angry and not even know why. If we are going to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (v. 22), we must be more conscious of the ways we produce stress and fear in others through what we say and how we say it.

The apostle James tells us, in essence, to be . . . nice. To watch what we say. But this is because James understands the human mind and heart. To love one’s neighbor well requires that we think before we speak, lest our words generate nightmares of fear and anxiety. —Phil Christman

As you pray, ask God to help you care for others through your words and actions.