The sixth point in Philippians 4:8 is to think on things “of good report.” We all love good news, but is there more to this than focusing on the positive?
We are engulfed in a sea of bad news: war, crime, natural disasters, political muckraking, celebrities feuding and mindless entertainment updates (just to name a few examples).
It is crucial that we have something of good report to hear on a regular basis, to balance out the tidal wave of bad news. We can’t pretend bad things don’t happen, because they do. We can’t ignore unpleasant news.
How exactly can we do this?
What does good report mean?
Thayer’s and Strong’s give insight into the phrase of good report through these descriptors: well spoken of, reputable, sounding well or things spoken in a kindly manner with good will toward others.
So, a good report is reputable good news that is shared with a good intent.
Many Bible verses remind us of the benefits of a good report:
A good report is reputable good news that is shared with a good intent.“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
- “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23).
- “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
So, it’s important for us to hear good and positive news.
But we live in a world where bad news is a reality. We can’t ignore it.
Consider this: a good report can also refer to the reputability and veracity of a claim, as well as the intent behind it. For example, telling someone that his or her zipper is down or that he or she has spinach in his or her teeth is not good news. But the accuracy and intent behind it (showing kindness so the problem can be remedied) can make it a good report (Proverbs 27:6).
Unfortunately, news outlets often run a variety of stories with the intent to make a public figure look foolish or evil or to push an agenda. Neither of these intents are consistent with a good report.
When put alongside truth, nobility, justice, purity and loveliness, something being of a good report may seem out of place or less important. Yet it’s actually the nuts and bolts of how we discern between what we should and shouldn’t be letting into our minds when it comes to the news. It helps us evaluate news based on the quality and the method of delivery.
1. Thinking what is of good report
To think what is of good report, strive to avoid:
- Unabashedly biased news sites, podcasts or other media. Meditating on hit piece after hit piece is just bad, disreputable news put on repeat. If a blog, podcast, magazine or news show is clearly indicating an intent of making one side of a political spectrum look great and the other side look ridiculous, we will not be getting a good report out of that source anytime soon. There is no good will or kindness associated with it, unless it is for “their team.” That is more like sibling rivalry than a good source of news.
- The norm of usually dwelling on the negative and minimizing the positive. We don’t have to be delusional Pollyannas, reframing every possible adversity into a blessing. However, we need not think there are no silver linings and no such things as blessings in disguise. Avoid the constantly negative outlook that most people have about other people and that many news sources have toward those not of their ideological perspective.
To think what is of good report, strive to embrace:
- A wide variety of sources, from the news we consume to the reports about other people we believe. When someone recounts his or her isolated experience with someone, we should beware of letting that be our sole filter for how we view the person. There may be more to the story—so look deeper!
Just because one source has given a potentially biased report about a situation does not mean that is the entire story. When we look at different accounts and perspectives, we get a clearer overall picture—or a good report.
Consider that Jesus’ life story was told by four different Gospel writers, with different perspectives and styles. We have to read and study all four perspectives to get a full “good report” of the life of Christ.
- The gospel of the Kingdom of God. The word gospel means good news. Jesus brought a message of good news—or a good report. The good news of the coming Kingdom of God was what He preached to others (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15).
To learn more, read “What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom?”
2. Speaking what is of good report
To speak what is of good report, avoid:
- Flattery. It can be difficult to deliver hard truths or to give honest feedback to friends or loved ones, even when it’s done with careful tact and gentleness (Proverbs 27:6). Flattery is far worse, though, since it is essentially lying and is often used to manipulate (Jude 1:16).
Flattery can be a form of gaslighting, in which emotional manipulation is done so well that the person being flattered actually believes the flattery.
- Gossip. Sometimes it’s necessary to share information we know about others in order to get them the support they need if they are in trouble or need prayers. But gossip is very different and does not have such noble or honorable intentions (1 Timothy 5:13).
The perverse joy in publicly sharing these “tasty trifles” (Proverbs 18:8) about other people’s problems is the opposite of a good report. It is actually very damaging and can even be a passive-aggressive form of vengeance or bullying.
Before we say something about someone else, we can ask ourselves, Would I say this if that person were standing here? Will what I am about to say help or harm this person, and how will it affect what people think of him or her? What is my motive for what I am about to say?
For more insight on this issue, read “Taming the Tongue: What the Bible Says About Gossip.”
To speak what is of good report, embrace:
- Saying what you mean. Though it may be difficult to find the right balance of tact, gentleness and truth when communicating, the benefits are worth it. If we want to speak what is of good report, we won’t be forcing others to try to read our minds (which they can’t do) or giving mixed messages that require others to interpret what might be deception and what might be the intended message (which they shouldn’t have to do).
Assertive communication will always function better than passive-aggressive communication’s hit-and-runs or the avoid-it-all-togethers of passive communication. Saying what we mean with tact, gentleness and truth is challenging, but the more we practice it, the better we get at it.
If we have something difficult to say to someone, we can write down what we want to say, then practice it before we say it to that person. Or we can ask a trusted friend to listen to us practice with the intent of discussing how our words, tone and body language come across.
- Sharing information that is helpful or inspiring to others. We can be the encouragers and the uplifters, or we can be the Debbie Downers. If we share information about someone, we can be sure it is what is necessary for others to know in order to pray for or help them. When we share news or information, we can balance negative information with positive information. We don’t want to be known as people who only share a steady stream of doom, gloom and negativity.
For more insight on this, read “4 Keys to Defeating Toxic Emotions.”
Do what is of good report
Most human beings want to be well thought of by others, sometimes even to a fault. Think of the other concepts that have been covered so far.
- Is our character known to be truthful, honorable, just and pure?
- Are we known for appreciating what is lovely and for being lovely in our own lives?
- Do we have a good report among others of being virtuous (the next item in the Philippians 4:8 list)?
Doing what is of good report is directly related to what is going on in our heads and what is coming out of our mouths. What do we want the report of our character to be?
Meditate on what is of good report
There is much bad news, gossip and all-around idle words that we can focus on in today’s world. But what good does that really do us? Filling our mind with negativity and uselessness does nothing positive for us. It only stirs up anger, anxiety and negativity.
When we meditate on what is of a good report, we are choosing to focus primarily on inspiration, encouragement, building up others and positive examples. These are things that enrich our spiritual lives. As we move on to the penultimate concept in Philippians 4:8, virtue, we’ll continue to see how interconnected all the points truly are.
Here are the links to the rest of this series:
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are True”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Noble”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Just”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Pure”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Lovely”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are of Good Report”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Any Virtue”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Anything Praiseworthy”