Pay more attention to language

Published 9:19pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I’ve met a few of the Jimmy Carter family over the years through the Carter Political Items Collectors group. Two years ago we had Sybil Carter as banquet speaker who was wife of the late first-brother Billy. She spoke about her work with drug and alcohol dependents since her husband’s death in 1988.

I never met the Carter matriarch, “Miss Lillian,” however. She was an amazing lady who spent two years working as a nurse in India in the Peace Corps, as well as serving as a dorm mother at Auburn University. She became famous for dispensing wisdom at the Plains train depot in 1976.

One of the great stories from those days is an interview Miss Lillian had with Barbara Walters. Gov. Carter made the promise during his presidential campaign that he’d never lie to the American people.

“Has your son never told a lie?” Walters asked.

“Well, he’s probably told a few little white lies,” Carter replied.

“What’s a little white lie?” Walters asked.

“Well, Barbara,” Miss Lillian continued, “you remember when you came here a few minutes ago and I told you how pretty you looked and how glad I was to see you? That was one!”

The apostle Paul offered a serious word to Christians: “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for … edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). That is, Christians must speak the truth and be committed to words that build up and don’t tear down.

One example of destructive speech is profanity.

According to a recent story in “USA Today,” the “run on cussing” in movies and television is due to our becoming “increasingly desensitized” to this kind of language.

A generation ago parents taught children that profanity demonstrated ignorance and a lack of proper education. Today, however, we hear disrespectful words on every hand. The “Oh, my God” phrase so casually tossed around today would’ve been unthinkable years ago as a sign of disrespect toward God.

Jesus said “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more is sin” (Matthew 5:37). An example is the thoughtless words we speak to those we love.

Psychologists speak of “displaced anger.” This means we get upset at work where anger is under “social control,” so we keep it in check until coming home. Then we speak words to family we later regret. The poet, Lord Byron, born with a clubfoot, said his father pushed him aside one day and shouted, “Get out of my way, you lame brat.” Byron said he grew up feeling worthless.

Every believer should pray that Christ be lord of our tongues.

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