Keith Wishum: What are you talking about?

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Looking through some files, I found the words below written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. In addition to the important truths expressed in the poem, it also has significance to me because it was sent to me by a friend, Jim Adams, who died soon after sending it. Most of my interaction with Jim was via e-mail, but he seemed to live as this poem prescribes.
“Talk happiness. The world is sad enough
Without your woes. No path is wholly rough;
Look for the places that are smooth and clear,
And speak of those, to rest the weary ear
Of Earth, so hurt by one continuous strain
Of human discontent and grief and pain.

“Talk faith. The world is better off without
Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.
If you have faith in God, or man, or self,
Say so. If not, push back upon the shelf
Of silence all your thoughts, till faith shall come;
No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.

“Talk health. The dreary, never-changing tale
Of mortal maladies is worn and stale.
You cannot charm, or interest, or please
By harping on that minor chord, disease.
Say you are well, or all is well with you,
And God shall hear your words and make them true.”

Does it matter how we talk, and what we talk about? God seems to think so.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth,” the apostle Paul wrote, “But only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Only what is helpful.” Imagine how much quieter the world would be if everyone followed that rule. How much brighter and more positive!
So much of what I say is not constructive, not helpful. So much of what I say should be left unsaid. How about you? Do you find yourself dragging yourself and others down with complaining? Are you critical when talking about your co-workers or family?
It’s always a good practice to ask yourself before you speak, “Will what I’m about to say help somebody?” If the answer is “no,” don’t say it.
Ms. Wilcox crafted the words of her poem and shared them. Jim found them helpful and passed them along. I found them helpful and passed them on to you. What helpful words will you pass on today? What unhelpful ones might you need to keep to yourself?

Keith Wishum is pastor, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.