Gracious Speech Promotes Good Relations

“Let your utterance be always with graciousness.”—COL. 4:6.

WHILE preaching from door to door, I met a man who became so angry that his lips quivered and his whole body shook,” reports one brother. “I calmly tried to reason with him from the Scriptures, but his anger only intensified. His wife and children joined in berating me, and I knew it was time to leave. I assured the family that I had come in peace and wished to go in peace. I showed them Galatians 5:22 and 23, where love, mildness, self-control, and peace are mentioned. Then I left.

2 “Later, while calling on homes across the street, I saw the family sitting on their front steps. They called me over. ‘What now?’ I thought. The man had a jug of cool water and offered me a drink. He apologized for his rudeness and commended me for my strong faith. We parted on good terms.”

3 In today’s pressure-filled world, encountering angry people, including in the ministry, is often unavoidable. When we do, it is essential that we display “a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Had the brother mentioned above allowed the householder’s wrath and unkindness to cause him to become angry, the man’s attitude would not likely have softened as it did; he might have become even angrier. Because the brother controlled himself and spoke graciously, the outcome was good.

What Makes Speech Gracious?

4 Whether we are dealing with those outside or those inside the congregation, even with family members, it is vital to follow the apostle Paul’s counsel: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.” (Col. 4:6) Such tasteful, appropriate speech is essential to good communication and peace.

5 Good communication does not mean saying everything you are thinking and feeling at any given moment, especially if you are upset. The Scriptures show that uncontrolled expression of anger is a mark of weakness, not of strength. (Read Proverbs 25:28; 29:11.) Moses—“by far the meekest” of all men then alive—once let the rebelliousness of the nation of Israel cause him to lose his temper and fail to give glory to God. Moses very clearly communicated how he felt, but Jehovah was not pleased. After 40 years of leading the Israelites, Moses did not have the privilege of taking them into the Promised Land.—Num. 12:3; 20:10, 12; Ps. 106:32.

6 The Scriptures commend the exercising of restraint and discretion, or good judgment, when we speak. “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” (Prov. 10:19; 17:27) Yet, discretion does not mean never expressing oneself. It means speaking “with graciousness,” using the tongue to heal rather than to hurt.—Read Proverbs 12:18; 18:21.

“A Time to Keep Quiet and a Time to Speak”

7 Just as we need to show graciousness and restraint when speaking with workmates or with strangers in the ministry, we also need to do so in the congregation and at home. Venting anger without concern for the consequences can cause serious damage to our own and others’ spiritual, emotional, and physical health. (Prov. 18:6, 7) Bad feelings—manifestations of our imperfect nature—must be controlled. Abusive speech, ridicule, contempt, and hateful wrath are wrong. (Col. 3:8; Jas. 1:20) They can destroy precious relationships with other people and with Jehovah. Jesus taught: “Everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.”—Matt. 5:22.

8 There are some matters, though, on which we may conclude that it is best to communicate. If something a brother has said or done disturbs you so much that you cannot simply pass it over, do not let hateful feelings fester in your heart. (Prov. 19:11) If someone angers you, get your own emotions under control and then take the steps needed to resolve the matter. Paul wrote: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.” Because the problem continues to trouble you, address it kindly at an opportune time. (Read Ephesians 4:26, 27, 31, 32.) Speak with your brother about the matter, frankly but graciously, in a spirit of reconciliation.—Lev. 19:17; Matt. 18:15.

9 Of course, you should take care to select the proper time. There is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:1, 7) Moreover, “the heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.” (Prov. 15:28) This may well involve waiting to talk problems out. Doing so when one is still very upset could make matters worse; but neither is it wise to wait a long time.

Gracious Acts Promote Good Relationships

10 Gracious speech and good communication help to establish and sustain peaceful relationships. In fact, doing what we can to improve our relationships with others can improve our communication with them. Reaching out to others with sincere, kind acts—finding opportunities to help, giving a gift from the heart, extending hospitality—can contribute to open communication. It can even “heap fiery coals” on a person and may bring out good qualities, making it easier to talk things out.—Rom. 12:20, 21.

11 The patriarch Jacob understood this. His twin brother, Esau, was so angry with him that Jacob fled for fear Esau would kill him. After many years, Jacob returned. Esau came out to meet him, along with 400 men. Jacob prayed for Jehovah’s help. Then he sent ahead to Esau a large gift of livestock. The gift achieved its purpose. When they met, Esau’s heart had softened, and he ran and embraced Jacob.—Gen. 27:41-44; 32:6, 11, 13-15; 33:4, 10.

Encourage Others With Gracious Speech

12 Christians serve God, not other humans. Still, we naturally desire others’ approval. Our gracious words can lighten the load of our brothers and sisters. Harsh criticism, however, can make those loads feel heavier and even cause some to wonder if they have lost Jehovah’s approval. Therefore, let us sincerely communicate encouraging things to others, “whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.”—Eph. 4:29.

13 Elders, in particular, should be “gentle” and treat the flock with tenderness. (1 Thess. 2:7, 8) When elders are called upon to give counsel, their goal is to do so “with mildness,” even when speaking with those “not favorably disposed.” (2 Tim. 2:24, 25) Elders should also be gracious in expressing themselves in written correspondence when it is necessary to correspond with another body of elders or with the branch office. They should be kind and tactful, in line with what we read at Matthew 7:12.

Using Gracious Speech Within the Family

14 It is easy to underestimate the impact that our words, facial expressions, and body language have on others. Some men, for example, may not be fully aware of how deeply their words affect women. One sister said, “It frightens me when my husband angrily raises his voice at me.” Strong words may exert greater force on a woman than on a man and may stay with her for a long time. (Luke 2:19) This is especially true of words spoken by someone a woman loves and wants to respect. Paul counseled husbands: “Keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.”—Col. 3:19.

15 In this respect, an experienced married brother illustrated why a husband should treat his wife gently, as “a weaker vessel.” “When you hold a precious and delicate vase, you must not grasp it too firmly, or it may crack. Even if repaired, the crack may remain visible,” he said. “If a husband uses words that are too strong with his wife, he may hurt her. This might cause a lasting crack in their relationship.”—Read 1 Peter 3:7.

16 Men too can be encouraged or discouraged by another’s words, including those of their wives. “A discreet wife,” one in whom her husband can really “put trust,” is considerate of his feelings, just as she wants him to be of hers. (Prov. 19:14; 31:11) Indeed, a wife can have considerable influence within the family, for good or for bad. “The truly wise woman has built up her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”—Prov. 14:1.

17 Parents and children likewise should speak to one another with graciousness. (Matt. 15:4) When talking to younger ones, thoughtfulness will help us to avoid “exasperating” them or ‘provoking them to wrath.’ (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4, ftn.) Even if the children must be disciplined, parents and elders should speak to them respectfully. In this way, older ones make it easier for the youths to correct their course and maintain their relationship with God. That is so much better than conveying the impression that we have given up on them, whereupon they may give up on themselves. Younger ones might not remember all the counsel they received, but they will remember how others spoke to them.

Speaking Good Things From the Heart

18 Handling anger calmly is not simply a matter of putting on a serene face. Our goal should be more than merely repressing our strong feelings. Trying to remain calm on the outside while boiling with anger on the inside puts us under strain. It is like stepping on a car’s brake pedal and gas pedal both at the same time. That puts the car under extra stress and can cause damage. So do not bottle up anger and let it explode later. Pray for Jehovah’s help to rid your heart of hurtful feelings. Let Jehovah’s spirit transform your mind and heart to conform to his will.—Read Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23, 24.

19 Take practical steps. If you find yourself in a tense situation and you sense anger building inside you, it may help to leave the scene, thus giving your emotions time to settle. (Prov. 17:14) If the one with whom you are speaking starts to get angry, make an extra effort to speak graciously. Remember: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Prov. 15:1) A cutting or aggressive remark would add fuel to the fire even if it is delivered in a gentle voice. (Prov. 26:21) So when a situation tries your self-control, be “slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” Pray for Jehovah’s spirit to help you to say good things, not bad.—Jas. 1:19.

Forgiving From the Heart

20 Sadly, none of us have perfect control of the tongue. (Jas. 3:2) Despite their best efforts, even family members and our dear spiritual brothers and sisters may at times blurt out things that hurt our feelings. Instead of quickly taking offense, patiently analyze why they may have said what they did. (Read Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9.) Were they under pressure, fearful, not feeling well, or struggling with some external or internal problem?

21 Such factors do not excuse outbursts. But our recognizing the factors may help us to understand why people sometimes say and do things they should not and may move us to be forgiving. All of us have said and done things that hurt others, and we hope that they will graciously forgive us. (Eccl. 7:21, 22) Jesus said that in order for us to receive God’s forgiveness, we must forgive others. (Matt. 6:14, 15; 18:21, 22, 35) Therefore, we should be quick to apologize and quick to forgive, thus maintaining love—the “perfect bond of union”—within our family and within the congregation.—Col. 3:14.

22 Challenges to our joy and unity are likely to increase as this present angry system draws to its end. Applying the practical principles in God’s Word will help us to use our tongue to do good, not bad. We will enjoy more peaceful relations within the congregation and within the family, and our example will provide an excellent witness to others about our “happy God,” Jehovah.—1 Tim. 1:11.

Can You Explain?

• Why is it important to select an appropriate time to discuss problems?

• Why should family members always speak to one another “with graciousness”?

• How can we avoid saying hurtful things?

• What can help us to be forgiving?

[Study Questions]

1, 2. What good resulted from a brother’s gracious speech?

 3. Why must we resist letting others make us angry?

 4. Why is it important to use gracious speech?

 5. What does good communication not mean? Illustrate.

 6. Being discreet in our speech means what?

 7. What sort of things should not be expressed, and why?

 8. When must we express our feelings, but in what way?

 9. Why should we get our own emotions under control before approaching others?

10. How can performing gracious acts improve relationships?

11. How did Jacob reach out to Esau, and with what result?

12. Why should we use gracious words with our brothers?

13. Elders ought to keep what in mind (a) when giving counsel? (b) when preparing correspondence?

14. What counsel does Paul give husbands, and why?

15. Illustrate why a husband should treat his wife gently.

16. How can a wife build up her family?

17. (a) How should younger ones address their parents? (b) How should older ones address younger ones, and why?

18. How can we get rid of hurtful thoughts and feelings?

19. What steps can help us to avoid angry confrontations?

20, 21. What can help us to forgive others, and why must we do so?

22. Why is it well worth our effort to use gracious speech?

[Pictures on page 21]

Let your own emotions settle, and then find an opportune time to talk

[Picture on page 23]

A man should always speak gently to his wife