Conversation That Upbuilds
1, 2. What should characterize our conversation?
1 In our everyday conversation we are afforded opportunity to bring honor to God. “In God we will offer praise all day long, and to time indefinite your name we shall laud,” wrote the Bible psalmist. Is not that a praiseworthy attitude for all of God’s worshipers? It bespeaks a determination to use one’s lips in accord with Jehovah’s will.—Ps. 44:8.
2 Such determination is vital, for due to inherited imperfection there may be the inclination to say what may tear others down rather than build them up. (Jas. 3:8-12) How good it is, therefore, that we ever keep in mind the Scriptural encouragement to speak what is “good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.”—Eph. 4:29.
3, 4. What besides talking is involved in conversation, and where can we practice it?
3 Of course, it should be remembered that conversation involves listening too, for conversation is an interchange of thoughts. Speak what is upbuilding, but also give others opportunity to express themselves. Cultivate the ability to ask appropriate questions, drawing out the one speaking. Then show genuine interest in what he has to say, rather than using the time that he is talking to plan what you are going to say next. Your showing such interest in the thoughts of others will upbuild them.
4 There are many opportunities for upbuilding conversation. For example, when you are at home with the family; when with fellow workers or schoolmates; and when in association with fellow believers. Many of our talks in the ministry school provide opportunities for us to develop the art of conversation.
5-7. Give some suggestions for improving family conversation, particularly at mealtimes.
5 In the home. Conversation in the home can contribute much to the happiness of the family, so it deserves the effort required to improve it. Both husbands and wives feel good when their mates show genuine interest in what they say. And children appreciate it when their parents listen to what they say and display real concern for them. But if you interrupt or if you leaf through a magazine when someone is speaking to you, or in some other way indicate lack of interest, conversation in your home will soon deteriorate. No one really enjoys talking to a person who is not interested in what he has to say.
6 Mealtimes afford a fine opportunity for family conversation that upbuilds. At one meal each day some of the conversation can center on the Bible text for the day as found in the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily. At some meals, topics read in recent issues of The Watchtower or Awake! can make for interesting and beneficial discussion. But never get mealtime conversation so organized that there is no room for spontaneous expression and relaxed enjoyment of the food.
7 In a natural way each member of the family can contribute to upbuilding conversation at mealtime. This is no time to air complaints; that sort of thing can interfere with digestion. But during the course of a day a person hears things that are informative, or perhaps humorous. He may have a pleasant experience in the field ministry. Maybe he reads something of interest in the newspaper or hears it on the radio. Why not keep it in mind to share with the rest of the family at mealtime? Before long, instead of eating fast and rushing away, you will find that you all look forward to these occasions to talk together.
8-10. Why are personal conversations between parents and children important, and how can they be encouraged by parents?
8 For parents, it is important also to have personal conversations with each of their children, away from the rest of the household. Best results come when it is done in a relaxed atmosphere, whether at home or when walking down the street. Such conversations provide opportunity to prepare a youngster for physical changes that he will experience in his body as he grows. Also these discussions bring to light what is in the youngster’s heart, what his real desires and goals in life are, and they afford opportunity to mold these in a beneficial way.
9 If, in the course of such a conversation, your child mentions difficulties in which he has been involved, immediately scolding him will probably end the discussion right there. And, remembering his past experience, he may not mention these matters again. It is usually better to listen and to probe with questions that show an understanding attitude on your part. Then you can kindly but firmly help to correct his ways where he has strayed from Bible principles.
10 Although conversation is essential to happy family life, this does not mean that someone needs to be talking all the time. In fact, it is good sometimes to have opportunity to be with your own thoughts, to reflect on matters in silence. So periods of quiet are often appreciated by family members.
11, 12. What opportunities are there to witness, apart from regular field ministry?
11 Making opportunities to witness. How does ability to converse in a natural manner affect one’s ministry? Well, have you ever wondered why some Witnesses always seem to be having fine experiences? May it not be because they take the initiative in conversation? The Bible proverb says: “The lips of the wise ones keep scattering knowledge about.”—Prov. 15:7.
12 Even apart from the regular field ministry, there are many opportunities to engage people in conversation and to speak to them about Jehovah. Christian housewives, for example, can witness to neighbors or salesmen who may call at the home. Children may have opportunities to engage schoolmates in conversation about the Bible while en route to school or between classes. And those working outside the home may be able to witness at their places of employment, perhaps at lunchtime. Even when you are walking in the park, standing in line at a store or waiting for a bus it is possible to engage others in conversation that upbuilds. In some lands, where there is a ban on Kingdom preaching, the ministry is carried on primarily by means of informal conversations. That this method of preaching is effective is evidenced by the rapid growth in the number of servants of the true God often experienced in those places.
13-16. What methods can be used to stimulate conversation that opens the way to witness?
13 To use various situations to give a witness, we may simply need a friendly word to “break the ice” so to speak, and the conversational exchange will be under way. Jesus set the example in this. One noontime when he stopped at a well in Samaria for a rest he asked for a drink from a woman who had come there to draw water. Since Jews did not ordinarily speak with Samaritans, this aroused her curiosity. She asked a question. Jesus replied with a comment about his having water that could impart everlasting life, arousing her curiosity further. As a result, opportunity was afforded to witness to her. Notice that he did not start off with an extended witness; he used friendly conversation to prepare the way.—John 4:5-42.
14 You can get such upbuilding conversations started too. While waiting for a bus you may be able to draw another’s attention to a newspaper or magazine article dealing with some problem such as pollution or war, and ask: “Why do you think these conditions have become so bad in recent years? Do you think the time will ever come when all the earth will be a pleasant place to live?” It has also been found effective to start talking about some current local problem, and then ask: “What do you think is the remedy?” This leads naturally to a discussion of the true remedy—God’s kingdom. Of course, discernment should be used. There is no need to force the conversation when persons do not respond. But you will find that some listen gladly, even as the Samaritan woman at the well did.
15 Another way to make opportunities to converse about God’s Word is to put Bible literature where it can easily be seen. When this is done in the home, visitors often comment on it, opening the way for a fine witness. If you attend public school, a book or magazine left out on your desk is almost certain to prompt someone to ask, “What’s that?” Then you have opportunity to tell him, giving a witness. Or if you read Bible literature during your lunchtime or when traveling on public transportation, this can open the way to talk to inquisitive persons about God’s kingdom.
16 Conversations with acquaintances can also lead naturally to talking about Bible truths. Such conversations usually involve what persons have done—where they went, what they heard or saw—or the things that they plan to do. So when you have opportunity to speak, why not talk about what you have been doing? After attending a circuit assembly, mention to a workmate or a neighbor where you went and the title of the main discourse; he may ask questions about it. Comment to others about what you read in The Watchtower or Awake! just as they talk about what they do. If you have struck a responsive chord, they will ask for more information. Now you have the opportunity to give a further witness. Such conversations that are designed to direct attention to God’s purposes certainly do upbuild.
17-20. Offer suggestions as to topics of upbuilding conversation when with fellow Witnesses.
17 When with fellow believers. When in company with spiritual brothers and sisters, too, it is only right that the conversation should be on a high plane, one befitting ministers of the good news. Its purpose should not simply be to pass the time, but to upbuild.
18 Fine opportunities for upbuilding conversation are afforded before and after meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Do not make it a practice to rush away as soon as the meetings are dismissed. Why not engage in conversation with older, experienced brothers, as well as with those who may be timid and inclined to be by themselves? There is so much to talk about. Discuss points of special interest from recent issues of The Watchtower. You might talk about a coming assignment in the Theocratic Ministry School. Others may have fresh ideas that you can use in your talk, or maybe you can suggest ideas to help someone else with his assignment. Field experiences can be shared, or you might talk about some part particularly enjoyed on the meeting that day. Such conversations do indeed build up.
19 At larger assemblies there are opportunities to talk with brothers and sisters from different places. Many Witnesses make it a point to strike up conversations in the refreshment line or when they travel to and from the assembly grounds. One fine way to do this is to tell the brother or sister your name, and ask for his. Inquire as to how he became a Witness. This usually leads to delightful, upbuilding conversation.
20 On your way to participate in the field ministry another opportunity for beneficial discussion is provided. Instead of engaging in pointless conversation, why not discuss how to approach householders in that particular area, or the subjects that they might be most apt to talk about. It is also good to discuss how to handle objections that may be raised. It is most refreshing and appropriate to think and talk about spiritual matters at such times.—Phil. 4:8, 9.
21-24. If conversation of a group ceases to be upbuilding, what can we personally do about it?
21 If at any time you are in a group of brothers and sisters when the conversation becomes aimless or not particularly upbuilding, what can you do? Why not try raising a question to steer the conversation into more profitable channels? Bring up a specific subject and ask questions about it. Such a conversation is all the more beneficial if those participating linger for a while on one subject, offering each participant the chance to make some expression.
22 When conversation involves discussion of other members of the Christian congregation, there is need to watch that it does not become disrespectful and critical, rather than upbuilding. If someone should start speaking about another’s shortcomings, will you have the courage to direct the conversation back to an upbuilding plane? Will you be loyal to Jehovah’s organization and protect one of its members? A small matter, someone may say. But not so small when it is remembered that finding fault with one of God’s dedicated servants may lead to complaint against God’s own arrangements!—Jas. 5:9; 2 Cor. 10:5.
23 At times conversation may take on a lighter vein, and humorous anecdotes may be told. Such conversation can be relaxing and beneficial too. But care needs to be exercised that it does not deteriorate into talk that does not befit Christian ministers. The Bible counsel should be kept in mind: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.”—Eph. 5:3, 4.
24 So, as ministers of Jehovah, let our conversation at all times be an honor to Him. By doing this we will also be applying the fine counsel recorded by the apostle Paul: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.”—Rom. 15:2.