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The Power of Positive Speaking

Positive speaking is a powerful form of friendly persuasion, because when used in the right way, it can really motivate a person to do the right thing.

Question: Is friendly persuasion a right thing to do?
Answer: It depends on what kind. Blackmail, white lies, insincere flattery and any other kind of unethical arm twisting and manipulation are certainly not the right thign to do. On the other hand, positive speaking, if not used for selfish reasons, is a powerful form of friendly persuasion.

What does "positive speaking" mean? It is saying nice things to people about themselves. It does not point out a person's shortcomings. Positive speaking searches out a person's positive qualities for the express purpose of encouraging that person. It remembers positive things about a person and then brings them out at appropriate times. Positive speaking does not make up nice things that are not true, but it works hard at emphasizing all that is truly positive about a person, even though it may be minimal or taken for granted. Positive speaking is a powerful form of friendly persuasion, because when used in the right way, it can really motivate a person to do the right thing.

The apostle Paul's brief letter to Philemon, a Master of slaves in the first century, is an outstanding example of positive speaking used as friendly persuasion. Throughout his letter in the N.T, Paul used it to stimulate Philemon to take the right course of action regarding his former slave named Onesimus, who ran stole and ran away, but now repented and became good. Although the Apostle could "order" Philemon to show mercy to Onesimus (v. 8), he appealed to him instead with positive speaking. It was not done for selfish reasons and it is therefore a biblical model of friendly persuasion that we can follow when we need to motivate people to take the right course of action.

Three aspects positive speaking:

As we read this letter we see that Paul's positive speaking to Philemon can be categorized under three subheadings.
First there is the positive speaking in reference to their Relationship.
In verse 1, Paul referred to Philemon as his beloved brother and his "dear friend." In verse 7, Paul wrote that Philemon had brought him "great joy and encouragement." Philemon was the kind of a person you'd like to be around. Sometimes the people around us are anything but joy and encouragement, and sometimes we wish that they'd just leave us alone! They take us for granted, monopolize our time, are unthankful and insensitive. If only there were more Philemons!
The point here is that Paul was not telling others that Philemon had brought him joy and encouragement as a brother, he was telling Philemon himself. Paul knew that this positive speaking about their relationship would go a long way toward moving Philemon to do what was proper in reference to Onesimus - especially when Paul referred to Onesimus as "my very heart" (v.12).

In further references to their relationship, Paul described Philemon as a "fellow worker" and "partner" (vv. 1,17). Although Philemon was not with Paul in Rome and not part of his immediate missionary team. And in referring like this he not only had their past relationship in mind but their present one as well. As Paul wrote to Philemon about this important relationship, he once again used positive speaking. This biblical friendly persuasion will motivate a person in the 1st or 21st century!
When he realized Paul considered him a fellow-worker and partner, it would have been hard not to follow Paul's request: "Welcome him as you would welcome me" (v. 17).

Another category of positive speaking that Paul used was in reference to Philemon's Reputation. In verses 5-6, Paul commended Philemon for his "faith" and "love" which were focused in the Lord and evidenced in Philemon's care and concern for the saints. Paul was able to say that the hearts of the saints had been refreshed through Philemon (v. 7). Could the same be said of us? If our faith and love is focused in God (Christ) vertically, it should be seen horizontally in our faith and love toward His people. What kind of reputation do we have with fellow believers?

In the context of positive speaking with Philemon, Paul meant that both his love and faith were directed towards the Lord and the saints. But how does one direct faith toward others? We do so when we put our confidence in them. Others are encouraged to grow and use their strengths and talents when we show faith in them. Philemon had a reputation for this and Paul reminded him of it. This positive speaking would induce Philemon to show the same kind of faith towards the new believer, Onesimus.
Placing a reasonable faith in a fellow believer is a challenge for us, just as it was for Philemon. When we direct our faith towards others there may be times when we get burned. But let's not use this as a reason to put a wet blanket on the spiritual growth of other believers by failing to place a reasonable faith in them.

When Paul reminded Philemon of his excellent record of love for the saints he was using effective positive speaking. This friendly persuasion about his reputation would surely inspire Philemon to show the same love to a new saint named Onesimus. Have you ever tried motivating people to do the right thing by reminding them of their past kind deeds? It works!

A third category of positive speaking concerns Philemon's Righteousness. The righteousness here, of course, is his righteous living. Paul was confident that Philemon would do the right thing to Onesimus (vv. 8, 21). In fact, he was persuaded that Philemon would spontaneously do more for Onesimus than Paul had even suggested (vv. 14, 21). Paul's positive speaking to Philemon about his righteousness would undoubtedly have prompted Philemon to welcome Onesimus back - "no longer as a slave, but better than a slave" (v. 16). We too can be sure that when we encourage fellow believers by mentioning our appreciation of their righteous lifestyle, it is hard for them not to do the right thing. Such positive speaking is biblical friendly persuasion.

Paul's main basis of appeal in the letter was positive speaking. The letter to Philemon is a biblical model of friendly persuasion. Do you know your relative, neighbour, colleague or friend who needs to be motivated or encouraged to do what's right? Try positive speaking.

Be Encouragement.

>>Letter # 24 (29.6.2003)

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