Last year, US-based firm Gallup International did a global survey and declared the Philippines as the third happiest nation in the world. Filipinos have always been known as fun-loving people, always looking at the bright side in most, if not all, situations. We love making fun of anything under the sun so that we can make light of our situations.

This characteristic is also evident in our relationships. Unfortunately, we are not only good at making light of situations, but we also end up making fun of people—whether intentionally or not.

Teasing someone is one of the signs that indicate close friendship with a person.

We tease our friends who have been single for a long time. We tease people because of their complexion. We tease our “feeder” friends when playing Mobile Legends. The closer you are with someone, the harsher the teasing gets. Surprisingly, we grow accustomed to it that we no longer consider our emotions or mind being teased by people who are close to us.

You’re probably reminiscing now how you’ve had so much fun teasing your friends, don’t you?

Teasing adds fun to our hangouts and conversations. However, as we build long-lasting relationships with others, it’s good to remember how to distinguish the fine line between teasing people and dishonoring them, especially those who are close to our hearts.

How do we know if teasing has already become bullying? Numerous social media posts show us how bullying someone for the sake of fun has affected relationships. This is what we want to avoid—a broken relationship because of an untamed tongue.

Words frame worlds. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the words we utter have power—including the jokes and the careless comments we mutter.

The Bible attests to this truth:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

Guilty? Don’t worry. You are not alone, because we are on the same boat.

Maybe we really have no intention to bury our loved ones in disgrace because of our tactless jokes and comments. Most of the time, we really just wanted to have fun but unknowingly crossed the line.

The good thing is that we can actually still have fun at no one’s expense.

I guess the question is, in a world where shaming, bullying, and dishonoring people are the norm, how can we enjoy our relationships with them while keeping an honoring culture?

1. Consider your words. 

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking . . . 

Proverbs 15:28 (NLT)

The book of Proverbs is attributed to the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. One of the most heavily discussed topics in the book is our attitude about words. See, kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body (Proverbs 16:24, NLT). But the opposite is also true—harsh words are destructive. So we must think carefully about the words we say.

This includes not just the words we speak, but also the tweets and Facebook posts we share. The principle is for us to be quick to think and slow to speak or post.

2. Correct when needed. 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12

How do you know when a joke is already in bad taste? The principle is clear and simple: Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.

Whether you are a victim of bullying or you’re the culprit, it is never too late to spark change in your relationships. Correction can either be done to the self or to others. We have the ability and the responsibility to help others, and we have the choice to do something.

If you feel like one of your friends has a habit of mocking or bullying people, my prayer is that you will be the kind friend who will give honest correction in a loving manner and help your friend overcome that bad habit.

3. Cultivate this culture with others. 

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10

One of the best ways to cultivate a culture of honor is to live it out with others. The Apostle Paul encourages us to outdo one another in showing honor and in loving one another with brotherly affection.

To honor someone is to value that person. By acknowledging someone’s value, we put a premium on how we relate and speak about them not only in public, but also in private.

Any “Word” Problem Is a Heart Issue

Interestingly, the heart lies at the very core of building a culture of honor and respect. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts.

“. . . For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”

Matthew 12:34

Our words reflect our heart. Whatever we perceive, meditate on, and believe in our hearts, they find their way out through our lips.

This goes deeper than considering our words, correcting our behavior, or cultivating an honoring culture with others. What’s needed is a change of heart so that our lips will declare only words that give life. Ultimately, it is the grace of God through Jesus Christ that will change the condition of our hearts.

May the psalm of David be our prayer as we build relationships with others with honor and respect, expressed in our words.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)