It’s probably not a coincidence that I came up with an idea to write a blog on “unwholesome talk” while I was running (or trying to run) on a treadmill. Remember how in my book I talk about how the doctors made a note on my medical chart that says “she runs marathons”? Well, I did run two half marathons right before I got Leukemia but haven’t run since. Thus the “unwholesome talk” blog epiphany. It wasn’t like I was letting the profanity fly or anything, but I was definitely abusing myself mentally and verbally: “What is wrong with me?” “Everyone else is running — I’m so out of shape!” “That girl next to me is just showing off!” “I’ll never be as fast or thin as her, and she looks about 10 years older than me!”. You get the idea.
There is a biblical principle in Ephesians 4:29 warning us to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful…that it may benefit those who listen.” Well guess what, I was listening to myself and it was not helpful at all. I used to think this verse was mostly addressing flat out cussing or mean-speech and potentially some pretty dirty and outright judgmental gossip. But that’s just the obvious stuff. Most people, even those who don’t really have a commitment to living like Jesus asks us to, believe that kind of talk is detrimental to all involved. It’s that sneaky self-talk that we tend to accept without challenge.
The synonyms for “unwholesome” help me understand the damage this kind of talk can bring about: destructive, damaging, poisonous, harmful, ruinous, injurious, un-nourishing. On the contrary, “wholesome” is defined as conducive or valuable to our physical, mental or moral well-being. And I would add our spiritual well-being as well. You have heard of the golden rule (which also originates from God’s plan for how we should love each other in Matthew 22:39): Love your neighbor/others as you love yourself. The problem is, most of us do.
When we are cruel, critical, judgmental and harsh with others, it is most likely because we are cruel, critical, judgmental and harsh on ourselves. Our self-talk is “unwholesome”. Practically, this means I have to keep my thoughts and words in check, mostly when I am frustrated or disappointed in myself.
I need to catch and redirect phrases like “I am such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be able to ….”, “I am always screwing that up”, “I can’t seem to remember anything or keep details straight” (that’s one of my favorites-I try to blame the Chemo but apparently Leukemia chemo doesn’t have that side effect. Whatever), or “I will never be __________ enough”.
The kind of talk I participate in with and about others starts with how I talk to myself. I have to ask myself if my silent and out-loud words bring “some-whole-ness” to my life? If the answer is yes, then I am on the right track and it will be much more natural for me to bring “some-whole-ness” to others when I open my mouth. As usual, if I want to bring love, joy, peace and happiness the world around me, it has to begin with me taking tender, thoughtful and gracious care of myself. My wholesome talk has to start with me.