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How to Have Edifying Speech

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
When we violate the biblical principles that govern the use of the tongue, we harm others.

Family Counseling Ministries   -

In the third installment of a four-part series on the power of edifying speech, Dr. Don Dunlap continues the case study of a woman named Katie. Katie frequently stirred up trouble among fellow church members. In this article we read of how she came to realize the strife and confusion she was causing, and we learn of her subsequent repentance and determination to learn to speak words that edify and build others up.

Katie, a woman in our church, was guilty of using her tongue sinfully and unwisely.

She frequently stirred up strife and contention among members of our congregation, by gossiping, reporting facts inaccurately, and pressing people for information that did not concern her. She agreed to meet with me for several weeks, in order to learn how to speak words of encouragement, truth, edification and healing.

The writer of Proverbs 25:11 exhorts us,

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.


There are many guidelines in Scripture for learning to use words that please and glorify God, and that build up the body of Christ.


I explained to Katie that the five questions on the “Listening Etiquette” checklist were all related to various biblical principles. I told her that when we violate the biblical commands that govern the use of the tongue, we do damage to the body of Christ. We discussed each of the five questions individually.

  1. When we impolitely whisper, or listen to someone else whispering while an individual is speaking in a group setting, we communicate a lack of respect for the speaker. A Christian should demonstrate good manners by not distracting or interrupting a speaker with discourteous behavior. I mentioned to Katie the fact that an amazing number of adults, as well as children, are guilty of whispering loudly when other people are talking.
  2.  Looking around at other people, or things, while someone is talking to us makes a definite statement. We communicate the nonverbal message, “What you’re saying isn’t important to me.” We should, instead, extend the speaker the courtesy of our eye contact, and our full, undivided attention. This helps us gather all the facts regarding a given situation. It also makes us, subsequently, less likely to misrepresent the truth by being only partially informed. I urged Katie to make an effort to always report facts exactly as she heard them, without taking the liberty to change them at all.
  3. Frowning, yawning and making other negative facial expressions speak volumes to someone who is talking with us. Our unspoken message is, “I’m tired of listening to you,” or, “Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?” We selfishly short-circuit the communication process when we are unwilling to listen to someone else speak, without grimacing or rolling our eyes, for example. Katie agreed that she did not want to gain a reputation as a “know-it-all” and she resolved to be a more affirming listener.
  4. Glancing at our watch or a clock tells the person who is speaking to us, “I think you’ve already talked too long and I don’t intend to endure this much longer.” Instead, we should strive to exhibit the gentleness and patience of Christ, in order to encourage the person we are talking with to express himself/herself freely and unhurriedly.
  5. Plying someone with inappropriate questions is rude and indiscreet. Christians must acknowledge the fact that God places limitations on all speech. We are not free to pry into other people’s lives, or dig for information that is none of our business. I encouraged Katie to make a commitment to refrain from asking any questions that were motivated by curiosity. She admitted to often going beyond the bounds of concern, and being guilty of “nosey” interference in other people’s lives.

After we had gone through these five points together, Katie responded by praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help her speak only words that would uplift and edify others. She repented and asked God’s forgiveness for the way that she had sinfully misused her tongue to work confusion and division among her brothers and sisters in Christ.


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