Answered By LESLIE LUDY
Can you give a practical example of what it looks like to be gracious in our speech in our daily lives?
Lottie Moon was a missionary to China several generations ago, and I remember reading a description of her that fascinated me:
“A pretty woman, with lovely soft features, kind eyes and dark hair, she was never angry, never impatient, never resentful, she patiently wore away prejudices and hatred by her gentle, gracious presence and her blameless life. She had all the firmness of a man, and yet a more gentle and womanly woman it would be hard to find.”
Lottie Moon was strong and firm against the rigors of missionary life, and yet her demeanor and bearing encapsulated the feminine graciousness that God intends us, as women, to have. Her lifestyle reflected a soul that had been made right with God. Her decision to choose a life of trust and humility before Him, influenced the way she acted, the words she spoke, and even how she was perceived by others.
So just what can we learn from her example? Scripture tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45). This principle highlights that the heart-attitude we are cultivating internally manifests itself externally in the conversations we engage in and how we carry ourselves.
While it’s easy to imagine a “gracious woman” as a silent, mousy figure, we must remember that graciousness has everything to do with the state of our souls. It is entirely possible to have a strong impact on the world, and even have a strong personality, and still be gracious. If we are harboring bitterness, resentment, or allowing frustration to take root in our soul – this will eventually be demonstrated in and through our lives. However, if we refuse to allow those things to take root in our soul by God’s grace, then a gracious spirit will naturally flow from our lives and bless those around us.
Here’s a practical way to put this principle into action. When people in your life do something wrong or insensitive, do you quickly and graciously respond to their mistake, or do you hold a grudge and give them a “cold shoulder” to let them know they have offended you? What about when someone apologizes to you? Sometimes it’s easy to give a verbal acceptance of an apology to someone, but withhold emotional acceptance of their apology. In my own pursuit and study of graciousness, I’ve come to learn that I need to be quick to accept apologies, and also to be quick to allow true forgiveness to be expressed in the way I am treating the other person, by God’s grace.
An older woman in my life tends to share gossip with me. I desire to honor and respect my elders, but it’s difficult to shut this pattern down and not participate in gossip. Do you have any encouragement?
You’re right, it can be so challenging to feel stuck in a conversation aimed in the wrong direction by someone to whom you desire to show respect. Here are some tips to guide the conversation in a healthy way. I would encourage you to try and gently redirect the conversation by changing the subject:
Try asking her questions about herself and her own life – any topic that is in “safe” territory will help steer away from gossip. Before you walk into the situation, think of questions ahead of time so you walk into the conversation prepared. Some ideas could be: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done this month? Or, I’d love to hear about what it was like when you first started walking with Christ!
Also, I encourage you to pray ahead of time that God would set the stage for those conversations to be redirected, that you would be gracious in the way you handle what is to come, and that God will touch this older woman’s heart with the love and conviction from His Spirit.
My words can be sharp and harsh more often than I care to acknowledge. What hope and/or promises can help me see that God wants to transform my words to be kind, gentle, and encouraging?
It says in the book of James that “no man can tame the tongue” – which reminds us that we cannot, in our own strength, tame our own tongues. (See James 3:8.) Only God’s power can transform our words into pictures of His grace. So unless we are yielding to the Spirit of God to shape and refine us, we undoubtedly will stumble in this area.
When it comes to changing our speech habits, it is no different than any other area of sin that you might struggling with. First, it is vital that you are not leaning on your own willpower or determination to change in this area of your life. We are promised that what God calls you to He will equip you for, by His grace. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:24.) Remember that the biblical idea of grace is more than the “hug” of God; it is the supernatural, enabling power of God to do what we could never do in our own strength. If exchanging hard and sharp words for kind and soft words seems impossible, I encourage you to ask God to give you grace to walk the path that He has set before you. Through it all, it has to be Christ working within you to enable you to live a life of righteousness and purity.
On a practical note, when the temptation arises to speak harsh and angry words, if at all possible, walk away from that conversation so you are not allowing your emotions to dictate your words in the heat of the moment. Pause, submit your emotions to God, meditate on Scripture, pray for someone, and get your heart in the right place before you even make a response.
As you make a purposeful effort in this area, it is possible that you may stumble or make mistakes. When this happens, immediately make the situation right before God and with the other person. Don’t allow the enemy to discourage you into thinking that you will never have victory in this area of your life, or that you are never going to change, so you might as well give up. God will give you victory in this area, if you keep your eyes on Him and rely on His grace!