Last weekend my family participated in our first homeschool speech and debate tournament (NCFCA) of the season. This is our second year to participate. While I’ve have never competed, I do enjoy judging some of the various speech categories.
Speech & Debate tournaments are interesting events. When judging, you see a lot of good speakers. You notice how seasoned speakers can sometimes ramble on topics they aren’t as prepared for without saying a whole lot, or manage to glaze over poor content with their speaking style. At the same time, you’ll see newer speakers who haven’t mastered public speaking yet, even though some of them have good content. This year I also saw some young students who were excellent speakers. Judging isn’t always easy. Ranking the kids and giving specific feedback can be tricky when it’s not clear which person was the best.
Public speaking is a good skill. It is definitely not one of my fortes, but I enjoy watching and judging. Additionally, there are some important truths to learn in the midst of speech tournaments. Learning how to respond correctly whether you make it to the top or do poorly, how to treat fellow competitors and how to speak kindly of those who perhaps aren’t as good as you are important lessons. But that's not all.
One thing that is essential is that our speech be gracious. Colossians 4:6 commands, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” It doesn’t matter if your words are eloquent or true, if they are not gracious, those hearing your message may close their ears. Paul reminds us that if we speak without love, we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). We also learn from 1 Timothy 4:12 that we are to “…set the believers an example in speech…”
Whether or not you are speaking on a public platform or to a person on the street, these truths apply. Be aware that your words can bring life, hope, encouragement, and build up, or they can be used destructively. How will you use your words today?And just for fun...a comic I found: