I attended a luncheon recently where a friend of mine delivered a short devotional message. In it, he presented an acrostic for the word, THINK. He was talking about the way we tend to discharge our words without pondering their effect. It was certainly a timely message in our day and age of shooting from the hip. Many of us need that lesson.
The acrostic he used went like this. Before you speak, ask yourself these five questions.
Is it TRUE?
Is it HELPFUL?
Is it INSPIRING?
Is it NECESSARY?
Is it KIND?
I have these because I asked him to send them to me in an email. Upon receiving them, I looked them over carefully and quickly realized that much of my own personal conversation lacks a lot of these integral parts. I’m pretty good at the “truth” portion, but the rest are a tad questionable. Because I tend to be a joker, a lot of what I say is to get a laugh or two. Consequently, much of it is unhelpful, uninspiring, and unnecessary. I don’t think I’m unkind, but simply inducing a little laughter isn’t all that kind either (except maybe in the cases where “laughter is the best medicine”).
It occurred to me that we tend to use a slightly different acrostic in our daily lives. It goes something like this:
TENUOUS at best…
HURTFUL at times…
INSIPID as in tasteless…
NASTY way too often…
KNOW-IT-ALL (we don’t know nearly as much as we presume)
In other words, we don’t think very much prior to spouting off. It seems to be a twenty-first century malady common to myriads of folks. This is especially true of our forays into social media, but we’re pretty good at it in everyday dialog as well.
The Apostle Peter once wrote this to the church. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). This sounds like a pretty good standard to attempt to uphold. It loses a bit of its original meaning without its context, but it’s clear enough to provide a guidepost even as it stands alone. Maybe we should stop before we speak to ask ourselves, “Would Jesus say what I’m about to utter?” The answer is not always well-defined, but in some cases it’s quite apparent. It’s in those obvious instances that we often get ourselves into trouble or are hurtful toward others.
A few years ago, my lovely Bride and I went on a vacation trip to Italy with a few friends. During the trip, I was my usual self. In other words, I kept putting my foot in my mouth. My spouse (as she often does) would simply say to me, “Stop talking, Dave.” It happened so often, however, that (as the days went by) everyone else on the journey began to repeat the phrase. “Stop talking, Dave” became the byword of the tour. Lo and behold, I was forced to begin to THINK. Sheesh!
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]