Friday, April 19, 2013

Seasoned with salt

When we do not choose words wisely, the problems in our lives become much more intense. Seriously, who among us has never gotten into trouble for words that carelessly tumbled out of our mouths? “Foot-in-mouth disease” is a malady not for the weak of heart.
Culturally, it seems we have gotten much looser with the words we say to each other. In politics, Democrats and Republicans often throw terms at each other that make us cringe. In these situations, it is funny how often the person speaking negatively winds up being the one looking bad.
All this political rhetoric would not be so destructive if it did not impact other parts of our culture. We have a lot of negative communication taking place. When we hear somebody speaking negatively on television or the Internet, it becomes that much easier for us to do the same.
We certainly see this in entertainment. There is a lot of emphasis on “reality” programs on television, and a staple of this type of programming is conflict. Makers of these shows apparently believe verbal jousting is a one-way ticket to good ratings, and many times, they are not wrong. After all, they keep making these shows so somebody must be watching.
Despite this, choosing our words wisely is one way we can make life go more smoothly for ourselves and the world in general.
This is an important concept. For example, The Holy Bible has this to say about our speech in Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
As with everything in the Bible, context is important when looking at just a couple of verses. This comment was directed at believers and the approach they should take when talking to other believers and non-believers. However, this has a universal application.
The words “seasoned with salt” is the phrase that especially leaps out. One biblical commentary correctly summed up the importance of this phrase when the writer stated: “This image carries with it several ideas, including preservation and something that is necessary to life. Down through the centuries salt has been used as a food-preserving agent because it destroys what is harmful in the food. Likewise, our speech should preserve by destroying harmful ideas with the truth, which we speak with love. Like salt, our speech should also provide what is necessary to life.”
The interesting aspect of that comment is it does not say we should not boldly stand up for what is right. The key point is we must commit ourselves to delivering these words with a heart of love that keeps the well-being of who we are talking to as a priority.
Too often in the arena of debate, the sole focus is on the making of a point without care for the person we are taking to. When it comes to swaying opinions, a popular technique can be the attacking of the person instead of the content of what is being said. While the credibility of a speaker is important, this approach is often used as a crutch to justify a “win at all costs” approach to conversation.
Whether this debate takes place in the political arena or a conversation between two people, the principle remains the same. We are all in this together, and unless it is an extreme case, we better be willing to keep the well-being of others in mind rather than just steamrolling them with our ideas.
We can make our points but still respect other people.

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