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Put them in mind…to speak evil of no man. (Titus 3:1a, 2a)
I am quickly becoming convinced that this is the hardest phrase in the Bible to follow. It also happens to be the phrase that God has been constantly reminding me of lately. When I was at some fellowship meetings for young people a few weekends ago, one of the speakers challenged us with this verse. It wasn’t even the main thrust of his message, but this is what I took away from the weekend. It’s embedded in my brain, and that’s a good thing.
I have cynic tendencies. That is the plain, ugly truth. I also tend to spread my cynical observations of people further than I should. Oh, not without a good excuse, of course, and only to people who won’t spread them around. A quiet conversation here, a sly barb with a raised eyebrow there…only to good friends and family or people of like precious satire, of course.
But do you notice that the verse says nothing about to whom you should or should not speak evil about people? There are no qualifications that say, “Speak no evil of any man unless it’s to your family in private. That’s OK.” “Speak no evil,” means, “Speak no evil,” and that’s HARD!
When I became aware of this little bit of information, I started realizing just how much I speak evil of other people without thinking about what I’m doing. It’s usually not intentional. It’s usually not what I would call “evil” (I mean, come on, doesn’t “evil” mean malicious, mean, and hateful?). But it’s certainly not uplifting either. What if when I make slightly arrogant and deprecating remarks about someone, even cloaked in a jesting comment, I’m actually speaking evil of that person?
It’s hardest when you’re with your family or people who are as close as family to you. If you’re in a conversation made easy by years of familiarity, it’s so easy to just start talking about someone else who isn’t with you…and maybe share more of your opinions about that person than should be shared. But even if the information you share won’t be passed on to anyone else, you’ve already passed it once. And that qualifies as “speaking”.
Trust me, I’m speaking to myself first and foremost here. I have a huge problem with this, but by God’s grace and constant reminders in my head, I’m getting a little bit better. But please, if you know me and catch me doing this, just tell me, “Briana, speak no evil, remember?”
Once I started making a conscious effort to put this verse into practice, I noticed that the tenor of my conversations started changing a little. When I went out of my way to make sure I didn’t say anything that could be remotely classified as “speaking evil”, I had a nicer outlook on life and people in general. I started looking for the good points in a person instead of the points that I could point out that were less than stellar.
Speaking evil of other people is obviously wrong. But thinking those same thoughts, even if we never share them, is just as wrong. Yes, focus on not speaking evil, but even more importantly, focus on not thinking anything you shouldn’t say out loud. Somehow, making the physical decision to not speak evil things reminds us to correct the root issue. That’s often how it goes: an outward physical action or symbol reminds us to pay attention to what’s happening on the inside.
I challenge you, friends: speak no evil of any man. Not only is it what God wants, but you will feel better as a person and other people will enjoy being with you a whole lot more.