It’s time to wrap up 2017 and make New Year’s resolutions. While I want to make continual progress in the stereotypical categories of food, fitness and finances, a different area of health is on my mind for 2018. I’m seeking wisdom from Scripture and accountability from a close friend to help me in this endeavor, because I want to get it right.
This year I resolve to use my words well.
Careless communication doesn’t seem too bad in the typical laundry list of sins and shortcomings. That’s the issue, though. I’m tempted to chalk it up as no big deal, even though the Holy Spirit has been prompting me to work though some things and move forward.
After all, communication is not isolated to individuals. Our words, or lack of words, affect our relationships with friends and family, dates, acquaintances and those with whom we’re connecting online. So, let’s own up to any problematic patterns or hang-ups and pursue relational health in the new year.
Here are a few areas of communication for your (and my) consideration when building our New Year’s resolutions.
Build up, don’t tear down.
Although this is basic, it bears repeating. Let’s commit to remaining (or becoming) encouraging, uplifting Christians as opposed to Debbie Downers or irritable people who seek to argue, win and be “right,” squashing others in the process. Each individual we encounter in our day to day lives matters as a deeply loved image bearer of God.
We ought to treat everyone well, with kindness and respect. Let’s lean in and listen, notice goodness and take the time to compliment others. We can use our voices to speak specific, timely encouragement. You never know when you’ll be used to build someone up when they need it the most.
There is enough negativity in the world. We don’t need to add to the gossip, slander or time-wasting quarrels. Aside from being wrong, it’s unattractive. We can do better in 2018.
Proverbs 18:21 reminds us “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” May we be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and bear the fruit of a life-giving tongue for the benefit of others and ourselves and to honor God.
Curb the snark.
I’m guilty of being snarky – two hands raised. In fact, my fleshly nature wants an eye roll reaction available on Facebook amid the current options. There is simply no small amount of dumb stuff on the interwebs alongside the cute kiddo photos and fun vacation snapshots. Sometimes an overabundance of those leads to an eye roll, too.
Unless you “unfollow” those who serve as snarkiness triggers, it’s likely that you’ll have plenty of opportunities each day to make snarky or sarcastic comments online or throw down an uncharitable GIF. But we don’t have to go there. We can see a post, choose to be gracious and ignore it.
For me, it comes down to my overall attitude and where I want to expend energy. Am I constantly dwelling on and contributing to a critical spirit? Yuck.
Sometimes snark is appropriate and funny. Sometimes it’s not. As we consider our online and real world presence, let’s keep in mind Ephesians 5:4: “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
Beware of “electronic courage.”
Have you noticed shocking online comments that would never be spoken to a person’s face? One of my pastors calls this “electronic courage.” Because we can hide behind a computer screen, we somehow think it’s OK to unleash, criticize, or “call out” people with whom we disagree or dislike. Nope.
Our tweets, posts, blog comments and emails bear witness to our character. If we’re going to say it online, it ought to be something we can stand behind and say aloud in person with our name and face visible. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17, NIV). If no one else sees, God sees. Our words matter.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
There are times to speak the truth boldly and courageously against blatant evil. In 2016 and 2017 in particular, several systemic injustices in the United States were brought to new light. What are we as individuals going to say and do about it? How can we best represent Christ in these matters?
It’s important to remember that our words (or our silence) speak volumes to those who are personally affected. If you have not been marginalized, it’s wise to take time to listen and learn from people who have been victimized, silenced or oppressed. It’s always OK to say “tell me more” or “I don’t know much about that topic, but I’m willing to learn” before forming an impenetrable opinion or speaking up foolishly. Who will fault you for being open to education and correction?
“Speaking up” is an area of communication in which I want to grow in discernment in the new year. I need to know when and how to best use my voice in the areas of influence I’ve been given. These are always important matters, but are particularly relevant today in our current messed up and mixed up political and social climate…on both sides of the aisle.
Seek the wisdom of Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower and guide you, and I will do the same.
Not everything I think in my head needs to be said. Not every post I read needs my two cents. Not every adventure needs to be photographed. Not every difficult experience I’ve been through needs to be up for public consumption in full detail. Some things can (and should) remain private or shared only with my IRL (“in real life”) relationships. Our electronic trail follows us for the rest of our lives. Post with caution.
A verse that has been guiding me lately is 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands…” There is nothing wrong with being hidden in Christ. In fact, some of the best work goes unnoticed by the world at large as people go about their days in anonymity. Wise, healthy communication sometimes means restraint.
More than anything, I want my words in 2018 to be true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy, based on Philippians 4:8. Let’s use our voices for good and be a blessing to those in our paths. I’ve resolved to improve my communication skills in the new year. Will you join me?
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Are there any areas of communication in which you’d like to grow in 2018?