But we were all able to agree on some great advice for speakers and writers that is worth sharing. All three of us sometimes (okay, maybe often) tackle sensitive or controversial topics, and we've all made mistakes. But as we learn and grow there are two simple things we try to keep in mind. These guidelines are valuable for teachers, pastors, professors, and even parents.
1) If you are talking about a group of people or ideology, always assume that someone in your audience identifies as part of that group or believes that ideology.
If you're talking about abortion, always assume there is a woman in the room who has had an abortion. If you're talking about New Yorkers, always assume a New Yorker is in the room. Talking about misogynists, Mormons, or Mexicans? Yep, always assume they're listening.
As Americans, we especially need to keep this in mind when discussing politics. Always assume a Democrat, Republican, or even an Anarchist is listening to you. Even divisive theological leanings should be included. That means you, Arminians and Calvinists.
How does this apply to parents? I hate to break it to you, but at some point your children will start (hopefully) having opinions of their own. It's probably not a good idea to diss people unlike yourself in front of your children. Your son just might grow up to believe the opposite of you, and he will always remember how hateful your speech was toward those who believe as he now does. That's damaging in so many ways.
2) Always assume that someone in your audience is smarter than you or more of an expert on the topic you are addressing.
I'm not a certified genius and I know that some of you are. Chances are, someone will find flaws in what I'm saying. That is okay, and even good. But I need to realize this from the get-go in order to kill my pride.
Also, if you're talking about a certain topic, always assume an expert is in the room. Trying to explain New Testament Greek, an economic concept, or the deficiencies of the American diet? Always assume a Greek scholar, economist, or nutritionist is listening. Someone always knows more than you, so caveats in honor of the experts go a long way. And when they correct you, which they sometimes will, listen to them.
So with those two little tidbits I bet our speech could be a bit more gracious, kind, and constructive. Let's all admit that our pride needs killing and our neighbor needs love. We'll all forget these guidelines a time or ten, so let's also be quick to forgive. I'm sure I'll need some forgiveness and gentle correction before too long.