“Don’t take that tone with me!”
If you’re like me, you either heard those words as a child, or have spoken them as an adult—or perhaps both. As a teenager, I was reminded by my mother more than once to watch my tone of voice, as it reflected my (poor) attitude. Now that I have teenagers myself, I’ve said those words to them. Why is one’s tone of voice so important?
I was watching a movie the other night that posed this question. The protagonist pointed out that it was not one’s words which truly spoke; rather, it was the body language and tone of voice used by the speaker that made the most impact. In other words, it’s not what just we say, but how we say it, that communicates our message.
Let me be frank. I do not always use dulcet tones myself when disciplining my children or disagreeing with my husband. Unfortunately, the carnal side of my spirit can take over and a voice laden with sarcasm or anger is sometimes unleashed upon my family. Such moments reveal a lack of temperance and patience and an abundance of pride. They reveal what is foremost in my heart at the moment, as it says in Matthew 12:34:
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
It’s pretty disturbing to think of what my heart is filled with in those moments. Certainly not the influence of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve noticed that moments like that happen most often when I have not spent focused time with the Lord. It’s the focus that’s the key—taking time not just for a quick prayer and Bible reading, but time to meditate, to wait for that settled, centered feeling that happens after communing with him. During one such devotional time recently, I considered Scriptures that would help me learn to control my tone of voice. Proverbs 31:26 came to mind.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Every phrase of this little verse is a trove. Notice that “she openeth her mouth with wisdom” doesn’t actually say anything about this woman’s words. It’s focused on what she does before she says anything at all. She thinks before she speaks, using the wisdom she’s gained from the Lord to consider what she will say. Only then does she open her mouth.
Finally, when choosing her words, she is governed by “the law of kindness.” It’s as though she has made kindness a law in her life, a regulation by which she must abide, as binding as the Jewish law.
Well. I have a long way to go before I am completely submissive to the law of kindness. But I know that if I pray for such a spirit, it will eventually be reflected in my choice of words, and naturally in my tone of voice.
Do you ever find yourself “taking that tone” of voice? What verses help you have a sweet spirit and gentle words, even in difficult situations? I’d love to hear from you.