Have you ever noticed that you can tell which side of an argument a person favors just from the tone of their voice? They don’t even have to take a side for you to know where they stand. You can just tell. Tone is also indicative of religious or philosophical leanings. I can peg a televangelist from a mile away because of the tone of his voice. And I bet you can too.

More than just a sound.

But there are other kinds of tone. For instance, the sorts of words we use to describe a situation or topic can also be a kind of tone. When courtroom drawings were regular occurrences in newspapers, the way the characters in the trial were depicted was a type of tone; sometimes the way the artist drew the defendant would be a determining factor of whether or not they were found guilty.

Tone matters.

The tone we use can have far reaching consequences. If the tone I carry when writing on this blog is too cynical, I stand to lose influence with those who are committed to the topics I address here. If too rigid, those who disagree with me will tune me out.

Appropriate, or fitting-ness, of tone.

Is there ever a time when an abrasive tone is the most effective? I think there is. For instance, when a child is about to run into traffic an urgent and authoritative/controlling tone is needed in both word and action. But what about something a little less obvious? Say doctrinal allegiance? If a certain doctrinal stance is vital to you, are you willing for your tone to exclude those who disagree from your church? Is your own personal righteousness dependent on an unwavering tone?

Consider the effect of your tone before you speak and act.

It is okay and even good to make a stand on things that matter to you. But when your stance is one of exclusion and ostracism you gain nothing. You may even lose those who were entrusted into your care. It is okay to disagree, but the tone of your disagreement matters more than your position, especially if you are trying to lead people in following Jesus. Think about that next time you address one of the more divisive topics in society. 

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