Have you ever said that something left a bad taste in your mouth? I’m not talking about the aftertaste of saccharin, or finding out that the milk you just drank had gone bad. Rather, there are attributes of people, places, topics, movements, or other things that cause us to dislike them. Even if our negative experience (with a church, business, or restaurant, for instance) was a rare occurrence, it left us not wanting to return.
What do we do in these cases? Avoiding a return visit is normal, but we may sometimes not even be willing to discuss that organization with others after a bad experience. We might also take out our frustrations in public, sharing our sour feelings online with anyone who will listen. Good business leaders know that a single dissatisfied customer can do a lot of harm, even if their experience is atypical (or, worse yet, self-inflicted).
Certainly, we usually don’t want other people to think badly of us in this way. Whether we are running a business, or just trying to get along with other people, someone who has decided that we aren’t good to hang out with can taint the opinions of others. (In rare cases, we may be glad to no longer be spending time with a “bad apple”, but we should still strive to love and pray even for people like that.)
Consider the following passage from the book of Colossians:
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Colossians 4:5-6 NASB
Here, every conversation with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus offers us a chance to speak wisely. Each discussion provides an opportunity to make a difference.
Unlike that ideal, though, I fear that I “throw away” many conversations in a day, missing opportunities (see Ephesians 5:16) to speak with wisdom and to be guided by God’s direction. Instead, I squander these chances in small talk, failing to seek God’s insight, ask for God’s wisdom, or consider how to show God’s grace to the other party.
We are called to words that are “salted” with grace. They should be “tasty” (worth listening to) and “preserving” (guiding people towards becoming better disciples of Jesus Christ).
So, the next time you find a conversation starting, whether at home, church, work, school, or out and about, send up a quick prayer for God’s help. The discussion might be short, and it might focus on things that don’t seem super-spiritual (like schedules or homework), but even in these, wisdom and grace can be present.
In addition, to show others wisdom and grace, it is valuable to have practiced ahead of time. Study God’s word by reading the Bible and searching for His guidance. Listen to those who teach and preach from the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting as to which messages are both true and applicable to you. Memorize Bible passages to have them ready as guidance when you need them. All of these things can better prepare you to make good use of conversations with others.
Remember, if what we say isn’t seasoned with grace, the results may taste pretty bad if we have to eat our words, later!
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.