If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Yes, I talk to my flowers. It is almost always in the most gentle of tones; not because researchers have indicated that this helps them thrive, but because I love them. It’s also very nice that they don’t talk back! It’s better on some days to hear nothing at all than to hear discouraging words.

Some say that music also helps plants, but I’m not going to torture the neighbors by singing to my flowers.

A 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology suggested that two genes, rbcS and Ald, are turned on by music played at 70 decibels – the equivalent of normal human speech. These particular genes control the plant’s response to light.

It is possible that their cells respond favorably to calm tones or classical music, although some researchers suggest that it is simply the vibrations that help them grow.

Speaking kindly to plants seems to have a calming effect on our hearts, whether the plants get any benefit or not. But they have no feelings nor souls. How much more do we want to speak good words to our fellow sojourners on this road to eternity?

A grieving mother was recently berated for a perceived “causative” action for her adult child’s misadventures and resulting sorrows. Parents are naturally ridden with feelings of guilt when their children — no matter what age — fall into hard times in any way.

The harsh, judgmental words crushed what was left of her bruised spirit. The only thing that saved her from being pushed over the edge of despair was the knowledge that her newest “judge” was only trying to help her make sense of a senseless situation. He also did not have all the facts.

While it is true that a real friend can speak harsh truths in the rare occasions where it is needed, too many times we rush to judgment without earning the trust and friendship necessary to discuss another person’s sorrows in any meaningful way.

Is it helpful to point out flaws in others? They likely know they are not perfect. We often do not know all the “back story.”

Job’s friends meant well. They invented a “back story” to make sense of his sufferings. Their accusations were quite shocking.

“Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquities without end?

“For you have taken pledges of your brothers without cause,
And stripped men naked.

“To the weary you have given no water to drink,
And from the hungry you have withheld bread” (Job 22:5-7, NASB).

Job’s friends meant well. It is quite impressive that they sat with him for a week without speaking, just to share his misery. They wept and tore their garments when they saw him. If only their “comfort” ended there! But many of us want to give unsolicited advice, and show each other where we have supposedly gone wrong.

Job had some great advice for them and for those of us who mean well and try to help those who are grieving.

“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend;
So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14).

For those who are hurting, gentle words are needed. There is a time and place for discussing reasons for failure, pain, and heartache; but a heart that is bruised and bloodied by suffering may not be able to bear it.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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