An explosive sneeze that scatters snot all over you. A pizza belch right in your face. Secondhand smoke blown into your breathing space. These are not pleasant experiences; they’re revolting, and in the case of secondhand smoke, poisonous. So what do you do if a friend unloads a stream of noxious words on you? Words that are bitter, angry, or crude? The antidote for this poison is giving of thanks.
Let’s first talk about how to recognize sinful words. Ephesians 5:4 tells us we should not participate in “filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking.” This kind of talk is immoral and impure, and our speech should set us apart from unbelievers. Just a few verses before, we’re told to “let no corrupting talk 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” (Ephesians 4:29). Read that verse again: Words are powerful! That word “grace” means “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, or loveliness” (Blue Letter Bible). Our words should bring listeners all these things.
So you’re focusing on using graceful words. What about when you hear a crude comment? Your internal alarms go off: a verbal sin has just been committed.
This isn’t a table-turning sin, though, just one that could lead to more sinful comments and thoughts. How can you stop that progression in a graceful way? Ephesians 5:4 goes on to say that instead of sinful conversation, Christians should give thanks. So, a friend rails against your math teacher for a low grade, and makes a rude comment about his appearance. Ding ding ding! That little shock you had should not provoke you to laughter, only encouraging your friend’s impure talk. Instead, try giving thanks: “Well, I’m just glad he gives tests so often, so one bad one won’t kill your grade in the class.”
What about friends who aren’t Christians? It’s even more important to be an example to them with your thankful language. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders… Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5,6). That doesn’t mean that when some unchristian guy makes a lewd comment, you should respond with a sarcastic, “Thank YOU for that mental image!” Sarcasm isn’t graceful, much as I hate to admit it. Sincerity is. If nothing else, ask nicely for the speaker to refrain from such foul language: “I would appreciate it if you would…” Find a way to sincerely give thanks, and your words will be full of grace, able to preserve both you and your listeners.
Like the germ-laden sneeze, disgusting belch, or toxic smoke, these kinds of words should offend, not provoke laughter or worse, permission for you to join in. But there’s no need to get angry or clam up. Instead, try being defiantly positive: give thanks.