At a recent conference, a woman I admire stated that she had fasted from speaking negatively about anyone for several weeks. As she was talking, I felt Jesus nudge me and say, “How about your taking up this challenge?” This really terrified me. I often worry about failing at commitments and felt sure this was a challenge I would inevitably fail. This area of speaking life has long been a challenge for me, and I was just starting to feel like I was gaining some momentum.
After thinking and praying about this for several weeks, God assured me that his grace is sufficient for me and any failings I experienced would be welcome at the cross. I finally agreed to take up the challenge. My commitment was to not say anything negative about anyone for a month. This began one of the most interesting experiments of my life. At first, I had to bite my tongue often throughout my days to avoid saying something negative about someone. I did not speak much the first three days of my challenge. The frequency of how often I was tempted to speak about someone in a negative way startled me since I thought I was a fairly positive person.
The need to guard my tongue and the lack of positive things to speak helped me realize I needed to transform my thoughts and opinions of others. God was showing me a precious gift—the gift of looking at people in a new and different way—his way. He gave me a measure of his gift of grace. Once I realized how often I was tempted to speak negatively, I was challenged by God to turn those thoughts around to share how amazing and wonderful these people were. I wanted to be able to speak (I love to talk), and I needed something positive to say.
My husband was unaware of my negativity fast, but he started to notice a difference right away. He would say things like, “Wow, you are in a good mood.” I realized I really was in a good mood! By not saying negative things that popped into my head, I felt lighter and happier. I was also worrying less and judging less.
James says no man can tame the tongue, and that is for sure. I did have moments when I needed to repent for what I said and also had moments that showed me how sinful my thoughts could be at times. God was very gracious to me to help me not feel condemned when I would turn to him in repentance after speaking something unkind. On the other hand, I remembered that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45). I realized that God was changing my heart.
During this fast, I had some very productive weeks in my job at the church and my job in the corporate setting that have shown me that it is not necessary to concentrate on the negative in order to bring about a positive. In fact, talking about and working toward the positive outcome is the best way to go about a project or solve a problem.
As we lead and work in various areas of church, home and the workplace, let’s remember that it is counterproductive to speak negatively about a person or situation. Choosing to speak life and consistently speaking words of encouragement is God’s design for quality improvement. That is how he made you and me. And it was very good.