Things we say- things we do. If I had a 'take back' button or a 'do over' app to my life I wouldn't attach it to my hands or feet- I would weld it to my mouth.
Proverbs 18 again has a myriad of ideas- we should not be living in isolation- we should appreciate a good wife- there are warnings against pride... but most of the ones that jump our regard WORDS.
vs 4- The words of a man's mouth are deep waters
vs 6- A fool's lips walk into a fight- his mouth invites a beating
vs 7- A fool's mouth is his ruin- his lips are a snare to his soul.
vs 13- If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
vs 17- The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
vs 20- From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied
vs 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue
We have other famous Biblical passages that comment about our speech:
James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,
I Peter 3:10 For Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
I feel a little foolish in even trying to offer insight to such an issue- my mouth gets me in more trouble than any other area of my life. And I have done more damage to others and God's reputation by my words than any other part of my life.
So at the risk of looking like I'm trying to give golf lessons to Phil Mickelson or fishing advice to Bill Dance, let me suggest a few tips to improving speech:
- Work and pray to remove any cursing, profanity, or by words to your daily conversations and dialogue. We have become way too lax in our culture in this area. I also sugest removing by words that are substitutes for the all too familiar language. Conversely, I am not going to shrink back in horror if someone uses a word- but by example, teaching, and correction I am going to pursue clean speech.
- Speak slowly and with thought. I don't HAVE TO jump into every conversation. I will work hard to tell the truth but I don't have to spill the beans on every subject in exhaustive details.
- Endeavor to never pass along negative information about a person. Our culture today paints people in 'sound bites' and we have a little blip about someone. When someone's name comes up we are often guilty about quoting the quip. If it is negative, it begins to shape our perceptions about the totality of an individual. Our enemy uses this environment as perfect soil to cast aspersions and ruin the reputation of good people. Speaking truth is allowable, but only as a tool to edify and not destroy.
- Gossip is a gross sin. Never pass along 'hear say' information. If you hear information, go to the original source and thoroughly check it out. SO much of the grapevine is incorrect. My phrase has always been: "The speed of the internet and the accuracy of a weatherman". A quick example- when I was losing weight last year, the gossip lines were full speed ahead. I would get stopped from time to time and asked about the accuracy of what was being said- I was sick- I was taking hormone shots- I was eating only yogurt- it was a full stir fried buzz. Sadly, I have seen a lot of situations go from poison to destructive by such a frenzy of loose lips.
- Remove sarcasm and humor that works only at the demise of another. Do not have fun at other peoples expense. I know of a situation where a middle school boy looked at a middle school girl and said two words, "You're fat". That led to years of her battling bulimia and anorexia. He was trying to humor his buddies and almost took a life in the process.
- Anonymous posting on the internet should be outlawed. I fully believe you should have to own what you write and what you say. We live in a country of free speech- but I do not believe in the freedom of free-radical words. If we had to stand behind all that we said, it would make us choose our words more carefully.
- Keep your word. But also live in the reality that as Ben Franklin said, "Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead". It is so hard not to share a secret, but we all need to tighten the screws on this one. Keeping your word also means keeping a promise. Isn't it sad to read contracts nowadays- proof of all the past history of men saying one thing and doing another.
- Season your speech with Scripture. Garbage in=garbage out. I say we hide more of God's speech in out hearts and try to use our speech to heal, and spread cheer, and offer hope, and promote forgiveness- all signs of God's grace and a healthy heart.
Finally, there is one more GREAT word in this chapter of Proverbs.
VS 10 THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A STRONG TOWER; THE RIGHTEOUS MAN RUNS TO IT AND IS SAFE.
When my name goes south and when my words wound and when my tongue has whipped up another season of silliness or strife- I run once again to my dad. "Please help me, I messed it up again- I am hurting- It looks like my name is mud- I didn't mean to vent, but I really said some dumb stuff." The father loves us- forgives- instructs us how to avoid these situations in the future- and loves us all the way through the results- God's grace is that good.