The words we say to the people we interact with have the power to either help or hurt. It is an authority we have with a responsibility we need to recognize. Every single time you engage in a conversation with another person, you are ultimately responsible for the outcome.
Your conversation can either construct and establish a friendship or de-construct a relationship that was already on the rocks. I believe the root of the problem is in the filter we use with every single conversation we have. Here is what this practically looks like:
Whether you want to admit it or not, we look at one another with pre-set filters. These filters determine our behavior, guide our words and control our emotions. Every single person that is in our life right now is looked at by us through a particular filter. My goal in this post is for us to analyze the distorted filters that exist and propose a new filter that needs to be installed.
Paul writes to the Ephesians in order to correct their faulty filters. Here is what he says:
Let no corrupting talk (unwholesome words) come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).
Whatever you say needs to be about the business of building up and not tearing down.
In contrast to a “good” word that has the ability to build up or encourage — the unwholesome/bad/rotten/corrupting word has the ability to tear down and to cause undue damage.
The words you say to others must give grace. This means that whatever you are saying must benefit others rather than corrupt them through what is being said.
Coming into a conversation from a place of grace must be at the forefront of our every interaction.
What then makes us say things we did not want to say? What then makes us quick to speak, quick to get angry and slow to offer grace?
Here are some of the most popular filters that we use when we approach and interact with people. These filters cause us to corrupt and/or tear down the people we are speaking with.
1. Cultural filter. The person we are speaking with does not fit the cultural mold. We have a particular perception of what they must look like. We already know what they must speak like. We already know what they need to behave like. If they do not fit this mold, then we immediately run them through our cultural filter and assign a diagnosis. This filter is almost always activated by default because cultural tendencies define our perception of other people. Instead of coming from a place of grace, we come to the conversation, culturally not lovingly.
2. Familial filter. Your family influences the way you think about other people. Your family influences the way you talk to and about other people. If the person you are speaking to is talked negatively about in your own household, this is the filter you will use during your interaction. I have learned that a majority of the time, the kids speak volumes in public to what the parents speak about in private. If mom or dad have a negative opinion about a particular person, the child will inevitably possess this familial filter. Conversations are not helpful and often tear down the other person. Instead of coming from a place of grace, we come to the conversation infused with a predetermined conception of who this person already is.
3. Personal filter. You and I might be completely different people. We have different likes, hobbies and diverse things that get us excited. This does not mean that we cannot have a conversation filled with grace and positioned from a place of grace. However, when this personal filter is in place, corrupting talk becomes the norm rather than a fluke. If I have a particular mindset, it is dead set and I will not allow any one else to show me otherwise. I can come across as extremely critical of everyone and everything that is not like me. In summary, I like my way of doing it more than your way of doing it. It is not a difference of methodology or even theology. It is just that your way of doing things irritates us. This is the thinking cap that is worn when the personal filter is activated. Instead of coming from a place of grace, we come to the conversation from a kingdom mindset where you are sitting on the honorary throne.
A place of grace should be our default disposition. We must by God’s grace, avoid using distorted filters. We must begin looking at people using the pure and clean lens that Jesus offers us in his gospel. We must come to people from a place of grace, ready to lavish this grace upon the people in our lives.
We must remember that at the cross of Calvary, Jesus did not look at us through a distorted filter but rather he was fulfilling the will of His Father. So too we must look to Jesus and look at people not as they are — but as Christ is.
In Christ — we find the grace that provides all we need to speak as God intended us to speak.
Question: How have you noticed the function of filters in your life? What are some practical ways in which we can avoid using distorted filters during our interactions?