“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
To “set the tone” means: to establish a particular mood or character for something.
For many years, well, actually all of them up until very recently, the phrase, “setting the tone” didn’t really mean much to me. It simply didn’t apply, since I wasn’t involved in management or any position that required supervision of people under me. “Setting the tone” was placed neatly in an alphabetized file of business terms stored in my head.
Not long ago, God redefined for me what “setting the tone” actually looks like. For ALL of us. For me, the mom and pastor’s wife; for you, from the teenager who works fast-food, to the CEO on the verge of retirement; from the college student nanny, to the elderly, whose care is being overseen by hospice. The importance of the tone we set when we are with others has left me, well, no less than wide-eyed.
Think about it.
Who are those people you enjoy working with?
If you do a lot of visiting, as I do, are there those you enjoy visiting more than others?
Who are those people who drain you? Who are those people who energize you?
Which one of those people are you?
While you’re pondering that, let me give you a few thoughts about “setting the tone.”
1. The tone we set is directly affected by how much time we spend in communication with God. Let’s face it, what’s going on inside manifests itself loudly on the outside. And “loudly” doesn’t necessarily mean spoken words. I’ll be transparent here for a moment: if I miss more than a couple of days in a row of personal devotions, I start to get cranky. For real. The same thing happens when I’m physically hungry. Eerie similarities, huh? Not really. Hunger is hunger and it’s not pretty.
2. Before we can set a proper tone for others, we must set a proper tone for ourselves. Oh, so important. If we, ourselves, “feed” on negativity – whether it be the lies of Satan, our own self-hate, or internalizing criticism from others – negativity is what we’re going to display. Read the following scripture verse, just in case you just skimmed it the first time.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things“ (emphasis mine).
Setting the proper tone for ourselves means filling our minds with the things listed above. Where do most of our internal battles begin? Yes, in our minds. Making the choice (yes, it is a choice) to believe the truth that God has given us isn’t always easy. In fact, a lot of times, it’s downright hard, which is why we need to rewind to the previous verse in Philippians: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)
It’s true. Take my word for it. His peace will guard your heart and mind if you’ll ask Him for it.
3. We set the tone in our marriage, our family, our friendships, our ministry and our place of employment. This is just scary, but it’s reality. How many times have you walked into a room, and the moment you stepped in the door, you could literally feel the mood, whether negative or positive?
I’ve been on both sides of this; either feeling the excitement being generated or figuratively getting rained on (not to mention being struck occasionally by lightning) when I walked in. On the flip side, I hate to admit that I can be the one thundering around, throwing the bolts and singing (and I use “singing” loosely), “I’m Just a Little Black Raincloud.”
Disclaimer: I’m not referring to those instances where a grim medical prognosis, tragedy, unexpected loss, bad news, or just a plain, ole’ rough day was experienced. I am referring to the pervading sense of needing to walk on eggshells around some people on a consistent basis.
I must continue to honestly evaluate whether I affect those around me in a negative or positive way. I represent Jesus to my spouse, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and to all those I influence in my ministry. Am I setting a tone that lifts up my husband, affirms my kids, encourages my friends, and inspires my congregation?
Am I setting a tone that energizes or drains?
Am I setting a tone that confirms I am living Philippians 4:8?
They are questions worth answering.