Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let Our Language Define Us

A talk during April's General Conference really stood out to me and I eagerly read it when the talk came printed in May's Ensign. It was a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entitled “The Tongue of Angels”. Basically the talk encourages us to consider the power of words and to therefore choose our words carefully. You never know when someone is looking to us to lift them up, and one misspoken word can crush them. We also need to speak encouragingly to ourselves; it's the Adversary who wants to fill our minds with doubt and fear, who wants us to be sure that we are not worthy of good things. Speak to lift another or ourselves, speak with love.

Then last night I read a talk in the July New Era called “Thy Speech Reveals Thee” by Elder L. Tom Perry. I thought it would take a similar vein as Elder Holland's talk, but instead it seemed to me to be saying to watch your language, the words you choose, not only the purpose of your speech. In particular, Elder Perry asks that we “[h]ave the courage to keep [y]our speech clean and wholesome ...” He says that oftentimes we use a non-swear word as a substitute for a worse word, but everyone who hears the substitute is perfectly aware what word could go there instead. This isn't much of an improvement, as even though you didn't say the bad word, your listener still heard it.

I thought that was interesting because one of my sons has a fondness for expletives. We don't swear in our house, by usual standards, but his choice of words bothers me. For instance, he'll say “Oh my GOSH”, but the way he says 'gosh', heavy on the 'Gah' and light on the 'sh' almost always gives me pause and makes me wonder if he has just said 'God', thereby taking the Lord's name in vain. He also says 'crap' and we all know what word that's a substitute for. Not the kind of language I think is appropriate, but especially after reading Elder Perry's talk, not the kind of language my child should be speaking or alluding to.

This morning I was speaking with a niece of mine and she used a swear word in our conversation. I wasn't offended by the word or it's use, though it did surprise me. However, an hour later I found I still had that word bouncing around in my head. I realized then that we should watch our words not only because of what they say about ourselves, but also out of respect for other people. My niece gave me something when she spoke with me today; it could have been a sweet something, it could have been all about the content of our discussion, but instead she gave me a sour taste in my mouth and my thoughts are more about the language she used than about the topic we discussed.

I encourage you to join me in being more careful with how we speak. Speak kindly and with affection to all people, including ourselves. Speak with language that befits us, evokes a good impression of ourselves, and lifts our listener. Foul language and foul messages only stink up the air, let's aim at bringing a little sunshine and sweetness instead.