Devotional, “Wholesome and Helpful: Words to Live By,” by Donna Elkins

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Wholesome and Helpful: Words to Live By

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4: 29

Over a period of years, I met on a regular basis for dinner with a small group of work colleagues.  Our original goal for this meeting was to support and encourage each other.  This left me wondering why the day after these dinners I often felt so downhearted.  Why would gathering with others to share our lives leave me low? Because the conversations we had hashing out difficulties and problems in our workplace were not spoken to be uplifting and encouraging.  Instead, they were energy draining.

Management author Suzy Welch in a 2018 interview with CNBC[1] said there are two types of people: energy-givers and energy-takers.  Welch describes energy-givers as those who are generally optimistic and tend to look for solutions to problems; energy-takers are those who are so negative or needy they absorb all the oxygen from those around them. She posed the fundamental question to determine your success in work and relationships is:  Which category are you?

The Apostle Paul hinted at the same question when he wrote to the Ephesians about the kind of talk that was coming out of their mouths. He encouraged the Christians in Ephesus that their answer should be this: we are building others up through what we say.  When they walked in a room, in other words, Paul encouraged them to be energy-givers.

How do we speak to build each other up in practical terms? US radio talk show host Bernard Meltzer is credited with the following quote:

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”[2]

Some version of Meltzer’s characteristics of speech have been adopted by several movements to check what is coming out of the mouth. The basic question circles back to how you want to enter a room, as an energy-giver or an energy-taker, as one who builds others up or as one who has unwholesome talk that tears others down.  What I determined from my experience is I want to benefit those who listen rather than air grievances.  We will all feel more light-hearted the next day.

Reflection: When is the last time you encouraged someone? When is the last time you said something that you regret?  If you were keeping a weekly log, in which column would most of your interactions fall?

Today’s Challenge: Look around for someone to encourage.  It could be someone you see every day or someone you only happen to see this day.  Say something encouraging and uplifting to that person, complement them sincerely, or write a note to say what you appreciate about them.

  • Donna M. Elkins, Spalding University


[1] Connley, C. (2018, March 13).  Suzy Welch: There are 2 types of people in the world – here’s the one you need to be to succeed.  CNBC.

[2] Buechele, L. (2020, January 8).  Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?  The Smile Project.


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