Words are powerful. Volumes have been written on the subject; I won’t add anything to the discussion here except my own admission of guilt. Even though I’ve been a Christian for a long time, I can still be careless or reckless with my words. The ability to speak carries with it an awful responsibility.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21a)
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body… For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:2, 7-8).
Death and life and stumbling and deadly poisoning are just a few of the monumental effects our words can have on others. Great good or great harm wells up in our hearts and tumbles right out of our mouths. I touched on this same idea in a recent post, mainly because I’m still—after all these years—trying to learn how listen and speak more carefully. I only wish I were a faster learner.
Recently I came across some helpful thoughts by Curt Thomas on the subject:
A good listener:
1. Blocks out possible distractions and is not easily distracted.
2. Concentrates (listening is work) and avoids mind drift.
3. Anticipates but does not assume (does not jump to conclusions).
4. Does not judge until comprehension is complete.
5. Recognizes his own predispositions, prejudices or biases toward the subject or speaker and attempts to re-evaluate his position (he listens objectively).
6. Does not dwell on unfamiliar vocabulary, but rather continues to work at listening and attempts to comprehend the main intent of the message.
Curtis C. Thomas
Life in the Body of Christ, Founders Press, 2006, p. 142, Founders Press
Some of the most common misuses of our tongues are:
1. Gossiping about fellow members.
2. Criticizing a sermon.
3. Running the pastor down.
4. Passing along matters which should be kept confidential.
5. Constantly questioning the leadership’s methods and motives.
6. Setting two members against each other.
7. Talking about dirty and immoral issues.
8. Making subtle, negative references about others.
9. Talking of matters about which we are uninformed.
10. Making disparaging remarks to others.
11. Bragging about our accomplishments and acts of service.
12. Encouraging church disharmony.
Curtis C. Thomas
Life in the Body of Christ, Founders Press, 2006, p. 220-221, Founders Press
When any one of those principles is neglected or ignored, some measure of conflict normally ensues. I’ll go on and say that because of our sinful nature and human weakness, conflict is possible even when those principles are closely followed. That means that knowing how to resolve conflict is at least as important as knowing how to prevent it. I believe I have even more to learn about the latter than I do the former, because I truly hate conflict. I think I got that from my mom (or maybe it was Adam, or the serpent). Anyway, even though I hate conflict, the sad fact is that sometimes I am the very cause of it.
One Final Question
Assuming that conflict is inevitable, I’m curious about something. Have you ever read or used any of Ken Sande’s Peacemaker Ministries resources? If so, would you mind sharing your thoughts about the material in the comments? Is there a particular course that you recommend? I see that they also offer training events, but they seem rather expensive to me. Are they well worth the cost? Thanks. Feel free to share any other thoughts you might have about the causes and resolution of conflict. Certainly, a lot more could be said.