Who are you mirroring in your speech today?
It was a Friday evening, and I had a mission: I needed to scurry pass the hoard of people sauntering on Orchard Road to celebrate the opening of a cell mate’s new start-up. I was already late, so there was no time to waste. However, as I overheard different conversations among the throng, my strides started to get smaller and smaller. Sharp, jarring, and blatant words were flung around — conversations singed with dishonour.
“That bit*h! Who does she think she is?”
“F*** you! Don’t be an id*ot…”
“Stu*id bast***, what did you mean by that?”
That short walk troubled me greatly, as every single person I had walked past allowed crass curse words that were loaded with insult or hurt to spew out of their mouth.
Unwholesome speech — vulgarities, non-edifying comments and even sarcasm — is commonplace to our society today, where people liberally express themselves through strings of “interesting” vocabulary. We are even presented a wider array of choices as our vocabulary has been expanded with the use of vulgarities in dialects. Whatever our age, religion or background, we are not spared from this virus that attacks, pollutes and engulfs our moral system, threatening to break it into pieces.
As I looked back on this street-encounter, I began to question myself: “Who do you look like when you look into the mirror? What do your words tell of the person you are?” Do they see a self-righteous, selfish “Christian” who thinks she has the right to judge others? Perhaps, someone who is so caught up with masking her insecurities that her explicit words and actions only reveal them instead? Would they be able to see Jesus in me?
Having answers to these questions was crucial for me as I work in an office that is all about “young amazing lives”, embodying a lifestyle and culture that is evidently “worldly”. I recall wrestling with this secularity, as there were many things in the job that strongly challenged my values — vulgarities, sexual content, basically anything that “kill[s] boring”. But I still had a job to do.
Four months into the job, I firmly decided that standing for Jesus in my workplace meant setting an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Initially, it felt like a sacrifice, but over time I was reminded that I represented and reflected Christ to my colleagues. How could I not seize this privilege? Subsequently, my colleagues started asking why I didn’t curse or swear and my answer was consistently simple: “Because words have power.” Proverbs 18:21 warns that “the tongue has the power of life and death,” and with such power granted to me, how could I be reckless with my words?
In the process, I had to learn to steward the Holy Spirit and His presence in my life and be quick to obey His commands. It says in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” If He said to buy my colleagues teatime snacks for the next day, I would be obedient to do so even at my own expense. If God said to write a card to someone I barely know in the office with a word of encouragement, I would simply do so because His love was flowing through me.
While I may not struggle as much with unwholesome speech, I have often lapsed into being judgemental: “I wish they had a mirror to see themselves the way they have portrayed themselves to me. If only they could see what their careless words are reflecting of them…”
As I listened to my own thoughts, my heart felt an immediate pang of conviction as God showed me how my generation has been taught to be quick to mirror everything else but God. At that moment, a breaking of my self-righteousness and a humbling followed this fresh insight as I, myself, have been guilty of mirroring other things but Him.
Perhaps some of us struggle with honouring both God and people in our lives especially in our speech and conduct, but the process of becoming more like Christ surely doesn’t happen overnight. Why not begin with these baby steps?
1. It starts with humility.
Just as God surfaced self-righteousness in my heart through the street-encounter, would you allow God to thoroughly clean up the person that you see in the mirror? Be courageous and dare to identify and confess areas of pride you struggle with and allow God to teach you His ways and share His heart with you the moment you are willing to recognise the condition of your sin-stained heart.
I have found myself trapped in a self-righteous world of pride, where I arrogantly gave up on trying to save those who have gone wildly astray. I saw myself as superior to them because I was “holier” and “more whole”, therefore having the upper-hand choice of either showing love or being ignorant to them. This act of pride made me ugly and surely did not reflect God’s agape love.
God tore down this wall of selfish pride within me and painfully stretched my heart just as He stretched His arms to die on the cross not just for me, but for those I deemed completely helpless and unworthy to be saved too. I have since understood that humility is where love begins, and love begins when I reach the end of myself.
2. Practice what the Bible says.
The key verse that anchors this point is James 1:22 where we are encouraged do what (the word) says and there are many truths that we can put to practice!
If you grapple with controlling your tongue, commit to memory Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The next time something unpleasant threatens to flow out of your mouth, why not pause and divert your speech to saying something that would build the other person up instead?
To those who sometimes struggle to conduct yourself in a godly manner, for starters, practice “be(ing) quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).” Slow down your pace, practice restraint and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to respond.
We have all been either the taunter or victim of hurtful words, but regardless, catch the Father’s heart as you read James 3:9-10 (NLT), “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” Surely controlling our tongues is one of God’s priorities for His disciples in order to reflect the purity and authenticity of His heart for the world.
Friends, there is an urgent call in these last days to become more like Jesus. May we be drawn deeper into the secret place, where we lay ourselves down, pick up the cross and follow Jesus. This is the only way He shall be reflected in our lives. Just as nature can’t help but reflect the magnificence of its creator (Luke 19:38-40), may we as His disciples become godly mirrors, reflecting our Saviour’s love to a generation that needs to see Jesus more than ever.