I’ve been considering the impact of my words; how I come off, whether I convey to people that they’re loved and important, evaluating any tendency to gossip, etc. Several months ago, I found this acronym and though the initial impact was pretty effective in helping me trim the fat from my speech, my recollections of it gradually decreased. So here I am, back to thinking after I speak instead of before. I don’t know about you, but having the “Oh I can’t believe I said that” moment is NO FUN. Embarrassing on so many levels, and I always feel like crawling under a rock and staying there for days.
Second to the mind, the strongest part of anyone’s body is the tongue because it has the ability to build or destroy in ways the rest of the body can’t. “From the same mouth come cursing and blessing” (James 3:10). With a word you can bring rain or shine, hate or love, and holding such power comes with the responsibility of keeping it in check. St. Paul says in his letter to James that “the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things.” (Chapter 3 in James is awesome if you want to read about the power of speech) Here are five standards to keeping a thoughtless tongue tied, lest you experience the nauseating taste of a foot in your mouth:
T – Is it True?
H – Is it Helpful?
I – Is it Inspiring?
N – Is it Necessary?
K – Is it Kind?
So how does your speech measure up? I can attest to the effectiveness of THINKing before talking because, when I have the presence of mind to put it to practice, it prevents all sorts of bad habits: exaggerrating, discouraging another person’s excitement, and even playful jabs or sarcasm that might be hurtful on the receiving end. Especially when it comes to gossiping, THINKing comes in handy because it forces me to question my own motives. Am I speaking to build myself up and cast someone else down, or or am I genuinely and humbly trying to understand a person’s character?
Aside from bad-habit prevention, THINKing has a way of replacing vice with virtue. When I’m more careful about what I’m saying, I’m much better at being sincere instead of sarcastic; and rather than raining on someone’s parade, I’m inclined to listening, encouraging if necessary, and trying to be sweet. On a larger scale, the whole idea is conducive toward humility because you have to consider the value and feelings of other people. Ultimately, it’s just better for everyone if I check off these standards before opening my mouth; however, I don’t think it’s necessary that I clear all of them in one phrase – I can’t imagine that everything I say will Inspire or even Help somebody – but making sure speech is at least truthful is a good place for anyone to start :)
I’m certain that I’ll be working on THINKing til the day I die – I’m a piece of work in progress; but keeping it in mind cultivates humility and charity toward my fellow souls. By the grace of God and, no doubt, countless opportunities to learn how to tame my tongue, I hope to live Psalm 51, “Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.”