We live in an age of opinions, and most days it feels like everyone and their brother is desperate to share them. We’re bombarded each time we check the news or pick up our phone. From the simple You’re Eating that Cupcake Wrong clickbait to the emboldened Twitter acquaintance decrying everyone who disagrees, an unprecedented number of opinions knock on our door each day.
Social media enable information—and false information—to spread at the click of a button. And heightened levels of anonymity create emotional distance from others. It’s possible to engage in a heated argument with a friend of a friend on Facebook we’ve never met. We can battle the opinion, and forget there’s a real person on the other side.
Strong convictions aren’t bad. God has given us minds to think and reason, and we ought to steward them for his glory. But the way we present our positions is crucial. Not only is it significant to our own spiritual wellbeing and the well-being of our relationships, but it’s also incredibly important to God. Our reactions to opinions—and the way we share our own—is directly tied to how people view God. As his image-bearers and ambassadors, we have the weighty responsibility to represent him well.
Our reactions to opinions—and the way we share our own—is directly tied to how people view God.
How we speak reflects how we love. And be assured, the world is listening. Before you share your opinion, whether online or in a conversation, here are three questions to consider.
1. Does it need to be shared?
It may seem trivial to mention, but so many of us forget we don’t always have to share our opinion. In most cases it’s okay (or even better) to simply hold our tongue. We’re under no obligation to react to someone else’s opinion. The ease with which we can post a comment online can easily yield emotional, unconsidered responses. As Proverbs reminds us:
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Prov. 10:19)
Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity. (Prov. 21:23)
Before you speak, ask yourself if it really needs to be said.
2. Will it benefit those who hear?
One of the most striking things about the way Jesus spoke was the content of his words. Not only were they powerful, but everything he said was of value to his hearers.
Even in his more casual conversations, Jesus was careful with his words. This is fitting, since God is a God of words. His created the universe with them. As those made in his image, words are part of the way we reflect him to the world around us. May our words exemplify the wisdom of Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasions, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Before you speak, ask yourself, Will sharing this opinion build up others? Will it be good for those who hear?
3. Can I speak with kindness?
If you’ve decided you have an opinion worth sharing, and you’re convinced it will build others up, the final thing to consider is whether you can say it kindly. This is often the hardest step. Opinions, even trivial ones, have the potential to divide and cause misunderstanding.
If you speak, do so in a manner that is kind, respectful, and full of grace. Again Proverbs observes: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Speak with softness of heart and softness of disposition.
So when sharing your opinions in conversations or online, labor to uplift others and exalt God. Avoid rash words and reckless comments. The smallest of words carry the power to harm and heal: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).
Taking time to consider these three questions sets us apart from the noise—the noise of shouting opinions and cutting down others. Whatever words we type or speak, may we begin with prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).