Uncontrolled speech damaging to our Christian witness

Sophomore Shaefer Bagwell argues that we need to reform the way we talk.

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John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

If you’ve met me, you know that I talk a lot, and I talk fast. I like to use big words to make myself sound smarter, and I make fun of people often. I make jokes that can be offensive — often intended for shock value. I can be vicious, belittling, arrogant, verbose, crass and careless. Sometimes I talk over people, oftentimes I talk down to people and most times I talk whether you want to listen or not.

In the last month or so, a few friends and I have been examining the way that we talk. Everytime I cuss, say something inappropriate or crass, my friend Jon punches me in the arm. He’s a strong guy. It hurts.

Bruises aside, I realized that this does not go far enough. It’s nowhere close. The words of my mouth reflect the state of my heart. If the words of my mouth are crass jokes and bombastic sarcasm, what statement is this making about my heart?

I’m not an inappropriately sexual person nor am I a sexist in my heart of hearts. Yet I continue to make and laugh at jokes that revolve on these subjects. What does that reflect to people who don’t know me? For all intents and purposes, the jokes that I make show them my insensitivity to people different than me. The jokes I make show people who don’t know me that I am overly sexual and think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Is this an accurate portrayal of Christ in me?

When I talk down to people, it is not an unconscious display of disdain for others. It is a manifestation of pride. I flaunt my intellect to soothe my pride and compensate for places — like athletic ability — where I feel insignificant. Does this prideful speech project the image of the living God in me?

In case I wasn’t clear, the answer to the above questions is an unequivocal “no.” Christians are supposed to be Christ’s witnesses to the world. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is full to bursting with mandates from Jesus, Paul, Peter and pretty much other every other major biblical figure to let our words be examples of Christ to unbelievers. Everytime I think about this issue in my heart, I’m reminded of what my mom used to tell me before I went to school everyday. “Remember,” she said, “that you might be the only Jesus your friends see.”

We need to reform the way we talk. We need to let the words of our mouths bear our constant witness of the saving grace and irrevocable love of Christ.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been writing opinions articles about different topics than I’m used to — matters of the heart instead of politics. It’s been a humbling experience for me, and I could use a little humility. I would invite you who read this to challenge me on the issues I’ve written about. I need it.

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