“ANY TIME WE CATCH OURSELVES AGREEING TO SOMETHING WHICH IS CONTRARY TO OUR CONVICTIONS, WE ARE NOT TALKING CHRIST’S LANGUAGE”
HOW TO HAVE CHRISTIAN CONVERSATION
“‘If anyone speaks, let it be as with words of God.’ In this admonition St Peter in his first Epistle sets us a standard, although a perfectly logical one. If we are Christians, Peter is saying, then we ought to talk like Christians. The words that we speak should be words that would not be out of place on the lips of Christ Himself.
NOT CONFINED TO RELIGIOUS TOPICS
This does not mean that all our conversation should be confined to religious topics. The Gospels record for us a very small percentage of our Lord’s conversations. It is only His words of major importance and of universal application that are related by the Evangelists.
JESUS IS FULLY HUMAN
However, Jesus is fully human, and we can be sure that He took part in ordinary, every day human conversation. With His disciples and other friends He undoubtedly discussed local politics, the weather and the happenings around Him – the comic, tragic or just plain interesting incidents which make up an ordinary day.
THE THREE NOTABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHRISTLIKE CONVERSATION
No, we do not have to be perpetually preaching in order to speak ‘with words of God.’ Even in the most casual chat there is a Christlike way of speaking. There are three notable qualities which characterise such conversation. These qualities are charity, humility and sincerity.
WHAT NOT TO MAKE TOPICS OF CONVERSATION
CHARITY bars from our conversation all that might give unnecessary pain to another. Sarcasm, ridicule, fault-finding, angry or resentful remarks – none of these, surely, would reflect Christ to our listeners. Equally foreign to the lips of Christ would be every type of unkind gossip, every type of tale-bearing, slander or detraction.
ONE-UPMANSHIP AND OTHER CONVERSATION HABITS
Perhaps a little less obvious than the need for charity is the need for HUMILITY in our conversation. There is no one (God excepted, let us hope) whom we love more than ourselves. Consequently it is a real struggle to keep self to a minimum in our talk.
Most of us are too sophisticated to indulge in outright bragging. Just listen to us, though, as we manage to mention (so very offhandedly!) some small triumph of ours or a compliment someone has paid us or an honour that has been accorded us.
Then there is the matter of one-upmanship, as it is called. This consists of topping the other person’s experiences. If someone mentions having had a serious operation, we describe our own much more serious one. If another person speaks of his trip to Mexico, we tell about our trip to Europe. If the speaker recalls an unusual bridge hand he held last night, we can remember a still more freakish hand which we held a week ago.
THE VERY TRICKIEST PART
SINCERITY is the third quality which characterises the conversation of a Christian. Insincerity is a much more difficult defect to spot in ourselves than is either uncharitableness or self-centredness. The reason is that usually we are not trying deliberately to deceive other persons. We first of all deceive ourselves and others only incidentally.
All too often in conversation we say what we think we ought to say and try to convince ourselves that we really mean it. We stifle the small voice inside us which whispers, ‘You’re talking hogwash and you know it. You don’t really believe what you’re saying.’
AGREEING FOR POLITENESS’ SAKE
Sincerity does not demand that we stud our conversation with disagreeable truths or opposing opinions which may give offence without accomplishing any proportionate good. Sometimes it is more Christian to be silent. However, any time we catch ourselves saying or agreeing to something which is contrary to our own convictions, we are compromising our integrity. And we are not talking Christ’s language.
ARE WE UP TO THE CHALLENGE?
We may be tempted to feel that Christlike conversation is beyond us. There is too much to guard against. We simply cannot be that alert all the time.
True, we probably never will achieve absolute perfection. Nevertheless, with a little effort we certainly can speak ‘with words of God’ much more consistently than we do. We shall find it a challenging experience to try to go through just one day (for a starter) with our conversation keyed to the question, ‘What would Jesus probably say under these circumstances?’
It may tend to curtail our conversation somewhat. But no matter. Most of us talk too much anyway.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese