Often people complain about “political correctness”, a sense of being forced to say things that won’t offend others, when they really think something else. No one likes being duplicitous, and it's not easy or comfortable to modify our speech patterns.
However James chapter 3 is challenging us in this. The words that we say that offend or hurt others betray a lack of respect for God’s image in someone else.
What people hear in my offensive words is a heart that doesn’t believe that they are made in God’s image.
James is challenging us to consider that words are an indication of our insides. But he’s also challenging us that when we can control the words that come out – pay attention to what is being spewed out, then we can learn about our insides and modify them.
In the book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown recommends writing a Stormy First Draft to discern your heart. This is a letter you will never send. The process of writing it, however, allows us to see what we are thinking and feeling and the kinds of words we are inclined to use. After writing the draft, ask:
· What more do I need to learn and understand about this situation? What do I know objectively? What assumptions am I making?
· What more do I need to learn about the other people in the story? Am I taking the attitude that others are doing the best they can? Am I able to remember that they are made in the image of God?
· What more do I need to understand about myself? What am I feeling? What part did I play?
· What does this reveal about my beliefs, hurts and desires?
Then: destroy the draft, confess whatever you need to God, pray for the person, arrange to meet face to face —so you can remind yourself of God’s image in them.
A good question to ask: can the words that I use indicate to someone that they bear the image of God?