If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

January 12, 2015

No offense, but that dress is NOT flattering on her.”

How can a girl wear heels that high and call herself a Christian?!”

Love the dress, but she just looks way too worldly.”

Have you ever noticed how people say stuff online they would never actually say to someone’s face? I have noticed a number of instances lately where a picture was posted and comments similar to the ones above followed. It seems we have forgotten something we knew as a child: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” {I John 3:18}

If you ever check out the news, pull up Instagram, or read a blog, you will eventually see something you don’t like. It happens to me: I’ll be scanning my Facebook feed when I run across an article criticizing Christians or celebrating immorality. Sometimes, I even see pictures and statements posted by Christians that are not very Christ-like. Always, my spirit grieves, and a little light seems to leak out of my day.

Yes, we will see things online that we don’t like, some trivial, others significant. Even so, I believe it is so important that our responses in these situations be carried out in love — or that we don’t respond at all.

As humans, the emotions we experience are God-given. So how can we learn to control our emotions — and our words — when it comes to our online interactions?

When you’re tempted to criticize or make even a slightly negative comment on someone’s post, article, or photo, consider these things first:

  1. If it’s a photo, look at the photo subject. What if, instead of a stranger, she were your mom, your sister, or your best friend? How would you feel if someone posted a negative statement about one of them?
  2. Think of the words you’re tempted to write. Now imagine them coming from Jesus’ mouth. Are they words He would say?
  3. Think of a person you deeply respect and admire. Would you be comfortable saying the thing you’re about to post online in front of that person?
  4. Evaluate your motives. Are your words intended to defend Jesus, or do they mostly serve to boost your own ego or self-importance?
  5. If all Christians made the type of comment you want to make, how would that reflect on Christ’s reputation?
  6. Will your comment uplift, enlighten, bless, or provide hope? Is it obvious from your words that your comment is being made in love?
  7. Have you considered taking a moment to pray for the person or situation involved rather than speaking your mind?

Obviously, there are times we should take a stand for what we believe in; there are times we should speak up. But how often, when we see something we don’t like, do we stop and pray about it — or for the person involved — before saying what is on our minds? Do we ever consider bringing our concerns to God before handling them with a critical comment? Will anyone be won over by our criticism? It’s unlikely: criticism is rarely birthed from love.

“Do everything in love.” {I Corinthians 16:14}

Our speech, oral or written, should be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:5-6) and motivated by love.

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

–Brandon Heath, “Give Me Your Eyes”

Sisters in Christ, will you answer the challenge to focus less on pointing out others’ flaws and more on demonstrating godly behavior in your own life?

The Christian walk is not a contest to see who can find the most fault with others; it is a race against time to see how many souls can be won to the Lord. We are more likely to influence someone toward Jesus by living out authentic Christianity than by criticizing them.

May we all be intentional about painting an accurate portrait of Jesus with our lives and actions. May we be deliberate about showing love and respect for others!

Image | All Scripture references from the NIV.