Yesterday, while in the company of relatives, I made reference to a joke between my husband and I. While my husband knew exactly what I was referencing and smiled; other people at the table didn't understand the reference to the private joke meant for my husband. I realized after I said it that it could have been taken for an insult towards my husband because of the fact that they didn't know the inside story. It was a reminder of how I need to remember that what I say and what I mean can sound very different to a listener that has a different background than me.
When our team was preparing for Zambia, we were prepped very carefully by our team leader to be sensitive to the culture and understand that we were going to things they may not understand and become offended. Their experience wasn't going to understand some of our American references and even though we don't mean to cause an offence, the difference in our cultures would sometimes do just that. We were reminded to think about what we were going to say in reference to their culture before we said anything. On the flip side, we were also prepped to not become offended by some of our cultural differences as well.
This makes me think of the verse, Proverbs 17:27 which says, "The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered." We need to exercise restraint with our tongues and think about how our words will be received and understood by the listener. We also need to have understanding that our backgrounds are different from the person speaking and not take offense easily because they may not be trying to offend.
Are you exercising restraint with your tongue and being sensitive about what you say? Are you showing understanding by accepting that a person is speaking from their own history and not meaning to offend?