The overall theme in September is “commandments”, which I think is an important idea to couch this lesson in. Commandments are laws given to bless and guide – and protect from potentially harmful ill in this mortal life. Following the commandments can bless us, make us more like the Savior, bring us peace, and build our testimony of the Gospel.
Bringing Depth to a Lesson on Words
This lesson is about words – what we say, hear, and read. The manual focuses primarily on cursing and bad language. While I think this is a good thing to discuss, I feel that this lesson will be richer if we open it to the content of the things we say to others and how we speak to and about others.
1. It has been my experience that we can really build others up by the things we say to them. We can give hope, encouragement, and comfort to others when we speak to them in kind ways and compliment them. We give insight to their lives when we point out their spiritual gifts. And we give can give them courage and faith to face life’s challenges as we bear testimony and build them up as individuals.
Use scripture stories to illustrate this point. You might consider the story of Christ speaking to the woman taken in adultery. He lifted her up, comforted her, and gave her courage to go forward in a better life. He also shielded her from those who were speaking ill of her.
2. It has also been my experience that we can impact a person’s experience by the way we speak about them to others when they are not present. If we speak positively about a person to our friends, they are met with positive energy when they join the circle of friends. And the converse is also true. When we speak positively about others it builds trust and confidence among our friends because they know we will speak well of them when they are not present.
Share an experience from your own life where the positive or negative side of this has impacted your life or others. I, for example, can remember a time where the negative words of another poisoned a bookclub that I loved and I ultimately left the group feeling frustrated, hurt, and alone. I can also remember another time when I spoke ill of another and hurt her chances in a relationship. It still fills me with shame today when I think of it.
Rule of Thumb
My rule of thumb in communicating with others (especially those who are difficult for us) is to always be honest and always be kind. It can be tricky to do both at times, but it can be done well if we are thoughtful in our communication.
Good, honest, productive communications takes self-discipline and emotional energy. Discuss the idea of discipline in communication with the girls – such as refraining from sharing gossipy tid-bits that are so juicy or showing restraint in speaking a constant flow of all thoughts. This will build our own spirit and our own character.
Positive Uses of Words
- To Teach Others
- To Bear Testimony of Christ
- To Inspire and Encourage
- To Bring Comfort
- To Lift Up
- To Build Community
- To give a Good Recommendation
- To defuse anger
Consider using scriptural examples of the King Benjamin’s sermons or Abinadi’s courageous testimony. Think of Abigail intervening with David’s soldiers to save her family, the daughters of Ishmael reasoning with Laman and Lemuel when they wanted to hurt Nephi, or Pahoran’s peaceful response to Moroni’s angry letter.
Negative Uses of Words
- To Lie
- To Bare False Witness
- To Destroy Self Esteem and Confidence
- To Hurt
Consider using scriptural examples such as wars and battles that were ignited by words – ie: David and Saul, Moroni and Zerahemnah, or Moses and Pharaoh. Think of how the evil words of the Jewish leaders hurt Christ’s mortal ministry.
These are terrific ideas, Suzette!
I love this, Suzette, and how closely the idea of kindness and honesty relates to Caroline’s recent lesson. I also love the lists of what words can do, for good or ill. Language has great power.
I love this. I really like how you take it beyond swearing. While swearing is by no means an ideal use of speech, my own experience as a teenager and working with the teenagers is that there are far more damaging things you can do with your voice. Swearing is vulgar, but gossiping, judging, excluding, mocking etc. really hurt people.
I love your rule of thumb, “My rule of thumb in communicating with others (especially those who are difficult for us) is to always be honest and always be kind. ”
Succinct and a brilliant way for interacting with all sorts of personalities.
I know you wrote this up 2 years ago, but as I think about my lessons for September, this is so great, expansive, and creates a desire to be (speak) more like Christ. Thank you so much.