Before we started school one fall, my parents took my sister, brother, and I to the heart of Atlanta to go school shopping at a Belk’s Department Store Outlet. This was at a time when you could really find good bargains and quality items for cheap prices at outlets. They had plenty of clothes, but also hardware, tools, housewares, and more. As I wandered through the store, I remember coming up to a big serving spoon and picking it up only to see that the round part was gone. It was sitting in a small pool of acid and the acid was eating away the spoon. My parents duly warned me to avoid it unless I wanted my hand to look like that. Visualizing my appendage looking like that spoon, I had zero difficulty obeying.
It happens when we frequently complain, criticize, grumble, and grouse about our work, duty, circumstances, and life. It happens when we making someone the butt of our joke through cruelty. It happens when we cannot tell others how we are doing without spouting off a laundry list of woes and agonies. It happens when we become characterized by negative rather than positive speech. We may not realize it, but such speech negatively effects those around us. It demoralizes and discourages. It can even cause spiritual stumbling. This is destructive, but it can be avoided. How?
Get to the “heart” of the problem. Jesus says that the “acid spills” come from a reservoir–the heart (Mark 7:21). It is stored within and then comes pouring out when those contents are under pressure.
Think before you speak. Ask whether or not the words will be positive, constructive, and helpful. If in doubt, think some more. If there is any doubt, leave it unsaid. You have to give advance consideration to “let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6).
Focus harder on the blessings. At any given time, on any day, we have difficulties and disadvantages. We are still on earth and not yet in heaven. Why not “count your many blessings, name them one by one.” I am convinced that a person truly filled with gratitude will not be an acid-spiller (cf. Col. 2:7).
Practice positive speech. Habits are formed through a process. Conscious, repeated effort will more nearly produce the needed result than to keep the bridle off the tongue (cf. Jas. 3:2). Yet, every determined effort to praise, compliment, verbally encourage, cheer, and edify another builds the habit.
Among the little I recall from chemistry is that the opposite of acidic is basic. Certainly, this is a spiritual basic. Positive, wholesome, and helpful speech is a building block that has the opposite effect of acidic speech. May we all strive to get back to “basics.”