Proverbs 10:19 – “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Years ago at a friend’s house, I saw an unforgettable refrigerator magnet with the challenge to T.H.I.N.K. before we speak.
T – True. Before we speak, is the content true? Truth is objective. It’s not based on feelings, hearsay, or what we believe is true. It’s easy to tell ourselves a story about a situation, then present fiction as fact. It’s also easy to speak some truth, not the whole truth, and leave out crucial details that don’t serve us well. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)
H – Helpful. Before we speak, is the content and motive helpful? Why are we saying what we’re saying? Will these words help or hurt? Build up or tear down? Unite or divide? Heal or wound? “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
I – Innocent. Before we speak, is the content pure and innocent? The apostle Paul says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth…” (Eph. 4:28). The word “unwholesome” means “rotten, of poor quality, corrupted.” Do we talk like the world talks? If so, we’ll get the world’s results in our relationships. “Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD, but pleasant words are pure.” (Proverbs 15:26)
N – Necessary. Before we speak, is the content necessary? Does what we’re about to say really need to be said? Will anyone miss not hearing it? Unnecessary words are almost always self serving. They make us look good or someone else look bad. They give us the last word and are often passive aggressive jabs. “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” (Proverbs 17:28)
K – Kind. Before we speak, is the content and tone kind? Sometimes we say unkind things with a kind tone. That’s like giving someone a skunk with perfume on it. Tone doesn’t hide the content. Other times we say kind things in unkind tones. That’s like giving someone perfume and spraying it in their eyes to prove how great it is. Content doesn’t hide tone. The message and the packaging must be kind, or it won’t be well received. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24)
This doesn’t mean all conversations are like rainbows and butterflies. In relationships, there will always be conflict to navigate. We’ll confront bad behavior and say things hard to hear. But if we’ll commit to T.H.I.N.K. before we speak, God will be glorified in even the toughest conversations.
What do you T.H.I.N.K.? Is there something you would add to this acronym? Do these things ring true for you?