When I was a boy, my parents purchased a series of instructional film strips for Christian teens. One film, in particular, made an indelible impression on my young mind. Its narrator emphasized that every word spoken by a believer must pass through “three golden gates” before being said aloud. These three gates were truth, kindness, and necessity.
Is It True? Paul said that everyone who has “put on the new nature” must refrain from falsehood and “speak the truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:24-25). Carelessness with the truth can destroy our influence, damage the reputations of innocent people, and separate close friends.
Is It Kind? Paul urged his Ephesian readers to “be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32). A true comment isn’t always a kind comment. A woman’s figure may indeed be as round as a barrel. A man’s nose may be comically long and crooked. A teenager may have crowded teeth or acne. One may mention such things without being dishonest, but hurtful words about the physical flaws of others can never squeeze through the golden gate of kindness.
Is It Necessary? Paul said to “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Harshly criticizing a neighbor’s physical appearance is completely unnecessary. Our words should build others up, not tear them down. But some painful things truly do need saying. For instance, confronting a friend with the inevitable consequences of his drunkenness may be essential to his happiness, safety, health, and eternal salvation. Unfortunately, in too many instances we say the painful things that are unkind and unnecessary but leave unsaid the difficult things that could actually do some good.