Filter Before You Speak

"Why would she say that to me?"

My friend's voice was full of emotion as I took a deep breath and asked for the Holy Spirit's guidance before I launched into an answer.

I am a huge believer in speaking the truth. Where I can easily mess up, though, is when I deliver truth without kindness or when I deliver a truckload of truth that isn't actually necessary.

I spent the better portion of the morning working at peacemaking. That seems to be a common occurrence. Conflict happens. Words are expressed, sometimes well-meaning, well intentioned, but hurtful none the less. How many times have I thought to myself, If we could all just love each other—what would that look like?

When it comes to conversations, I think it might look something like this:

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph. 4:29).

Several years ago I read and tried to begin implementing this verse and started using the "3-Question Principle" in communication. I first read it in a book by Amy Carmichael, but it wasn't original with her. These three questions are simply a communication filter.

Before you blurt out what you're thinking, pause and ask yourself:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?

Is it true?

Far too many times as a young woman I justified the rude, obnoxious, and bluntly honest criticisms that frequently spewed from my (far-too-often open) mouth. Any bystanders who happened to be in the vicinity of my diatribes were leveled. I justified my honest jabs with the belief that: The TRUTH must be delivered!

How many times have we blown away loved ones by our insistence on opening our mouths to "let them have it" and followed the criticism with the salvo: "Well, it's the truth!"?

I am a huge believer in speaking the truth. Where I can easily mess up, though, is when I deliver truth without kindness or when I deliver a truckload of truth that isn't actually necessary.

Is it necessary?

Let's say you're out for an afternoon drive with your family. The person you're following is driving erratically. It isn't "necessary" to call them an "idiot" or any number of demeaning monikers. They may be an irresponsible driver, but is it "necessary" to fill the car with negative commentary about an individual (who is made in God's image, by the way) you've never even met?

What kind of example is that for your children?

Is it kind?

Imagine this: Your husband forges right ahead, ignoring your input on a business transaction, and it ends up bombing (just as you predicted). It may be true that you were right, but would it be kind (or necessary) to deliver that truth? In what way would he—or anyone—benefit from an announcement like, "I told you so!"

I'm not saying we should never confront others, but I think our communication should be driven by love, delivered in meekness, and intentionally used to glorify God. Honesty with humility is the foundation for loving communication.

Do you have some principles for communication that you've found helpful in your relationships?

I'd love to hear them! I hope you'll leave a comment.

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About the Author

Kimberly Wagner

Kimberly Wagner

Kimberly Wagner’s passion is Christ, and she desires to ignite women's pursuit of God's glory. She's the author of Fierce Women, and is a frequent guest on the Revive Our Hearts radio program, as well as a regular contributor to the True Woman blog. She enjoys sharing with women and hearing from them about what God is doing in their lives.

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