Use Words to Build Trust at WorkBlog / Produced by The High Calling
An older woman in my church wasn't able to live on her own any more, and she moved into a nursing home. When I would go to see her, she would always tell me, at the beginning and the end of the visit, and many times in between, "Thank you so much for coming. It's very nice of you." I noticed that she showed the same appreciation to the nursing staff. "Thank you," she was always saying to them. "You're so nice to me."
Over the next couple of years, her Alzheimer's disease grew worse and worse, until finally she wasn't able to carry on much of a conversation any more. I wasn't sure if she even knew who I was, but she was always happy to see me. And she would still say, "Very nice. Thank you." These words, in fact, eventually became her entire response to any question or comment.
I was struck by what a deep spirit of gratitude she must have had for this to be all that was left when most of her reasoning powers were gone. It was such a contrast to the anger and vulgarity that I could unfortunately hear coming out of other some rooms, where the residents were similarly unable to hold back the very different things that were inside them.
What Is Inside of You?
Jesus taught that "the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart." In other words, whatever's deep in our hearts inevitably flows out in our words. The most extreme case is when we can no longer keep from saying what we're thinking or feeling. But even when we're armed with all of the tools we conventionally use to make a good impression on others, what's in our hearts will come out anyway.
Jesus spoke these words when the Pharisees accused him of casting out demons by the power of the "prince of demons." Jesus first showed that the charge made no sense—why would the devil work against his own interests that way? But if the accusation wasn't logical, then where was it coming from? Unfortunately, it expressed the malice that was in the Pharisees' hearts. Those hearts simply weren't capable of an objective appreciation for his divinely-appointed ministry of healing and deliverance.
"How can you who are evil say anything good?" Jesus challenged them. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them" (Matt. 12:34-35).
Use Words to Build Respect and Truth
Jesus then added a serious warning: "People will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken" (Matt. 12:36). The term translated "empty" here means literally "idle" or "not at work." The implication is that we should always be doing more than just trying to avoid saying things that might be offensive. We have an active responsibility to speak in a way that encourages others and builds truth and respect and love into all of our relationships. If our words haven't been actively at work in this way, we will be held accountable—not because we did or didn't say something, but because we failed to become the people we were meant to be, deep down in our hearts.
Fortunately, there's a way we can check on how we're doing, long before the time when we'll be held accountable. Our words will show us what's in our hearts. And if we don't like what we're hearing, there's something we can do about it.
I'm convinced there was only one way the woman I knew could have developed such a deep spirit of gratitude that it stayed with her when the rest of her faculties were gone. She must have trained her mind, over the many decades of her life, to see the good and beautiful things around her, and she must have trained her mouth to express appreciation for them. We can do the same each day, and over time we will "store up good things" that will eventually flow out in life-giving words.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- What would people hear from you if you couldn't keep from saying just what was in your heart?
- How has a coworker or friend used words to encourage you and build a relationship of truth and respect with you?
- This week at work, how can you speak in a way that encourages others and builds truth and respect within your organization?
- For more on this topic, browse our archive of articles about having a Christian attitude at work.