As a friend of mine was sharing an experience she had recently had, and I automatically said, “Wait, what was her name? Who are you talking about?” She respectfully responded, “Ooooooh, I don’t know feel comfortable telling you who because I think then I would just be gossiping.” I instinctively tried to justify my reason for wanting to know who she was talking about. I was kind of embarrassed that I had even asked. It didn’t matter who was talking about. It had nothing to do with the point she was trying to make. She continued telling me the story and we ended the conversation. I have thought back to that phone call several times over the past weeks. I’ve thought about all of the times where I did not respond as she did and had carried on a conversation I knew I should have ended much less given out names of people. It is something we often just get caught up in maybe without even realizing it. If we’ve made a conscious choice beforehand it will be much easier to act appropriately when the situation arises.
In the classic conference talk, Tongue of Angels by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland he says, “Like all gifts ‘which cometh from above,’ words are ‘sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.’ It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves.” Imagine how powerful our words and actions would be if we used our words to intentionally build and strengthen those who we love most. It is easy to get defensive, rationalize or justify our words or behavior. Even in this one thing we could be a little more like our Savior.
When I was in seminary we had to vote for one senior girl and one boy to receive the “Most Christ-like award.” The two people who were almost unanimously voted were really, truly the most kind-hearted, respectful people at our school. They certainly did not have perfect lives or nothing to complain about, but they were always friendly, happy and helpful. The girl was a good friend of mine and when anyone started to speak badly of someone else she would always remind us to be kind, change the subject or find something positive about the situation or a particular person.
Although Elder Holland spoke these words almost ten years ago, truth never changes. “A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined…there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks.” (Tongue of Angels,General Conference 2007).
Our words can bring light, love, and hope to a world that so desperately needs it. Find ways to lift and inspire with your words on social media, in your everyday interactions with co-workers and friends, loved ones at home, or even with people you don’t even know.