“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23
I know I tend to have “foot in mouth disease.” That disease where you somehow put your own foot in your mouth. That is, you say something really stupid, obtuse, or down right ignorant of the situation. And when you do, it just makes you look the fool and everyone else uncomfortable. It’s that moment where you finish talking three sentences after your brain is screaming “Dear, Lord, stop talking!” Yeah, that.
For many of us, we just keep talking. We don’t shut up. Our mouths move faster than our brains and then we blurt out something that’s just wrong. Or something that betrays something someone said to us in confidence, or is hurtful and harmful.
This isn’t the first time in the book of Proverbs that we read about this. One of my favorite proverbs is this:
“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Proverbs 17:28
How often do we open our mouths around people and prove that we’re just idiots (or idjits as some are want to call them). In our own stupidity and lack of thinking before speaking, we mess up. We say things that can be hurtful. We say things that just make us look dumb. And we speak faster than we should.
James addresses this when he writes
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
As someone said to me once “We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.” How often do we just want to speak? How often do we listen to someone just so that we can reply instead of actually understand what they’re saying? Not often enough I think.
Social media is the worst for this. We reply rashly to posts on Facebook. We tweet quickly and without thought on twitter. We post comments as trolls on blog posts. Each time not fully thinking what we’re saying. And for the digital age, as soon as it is on the internets, it is out there for good. You can delete it, you can try to clean it up, but somewhere, someone has done a screen shot of what you wrote or said and it can go viral. And I can be guilty of this just as well.
So what should we do?
To be honest, this can become a spiritual issue for us. It can break down relationships with others. It can hurt other people. What we say can disrupt a relationship with a friend. What we say can hurt us with family. And it can get in the way of being part of the family of God, part of the body of Jesus. I’ve seen so many times (and it’s happened to me and I’ve probably done it too) where someone says something, puts their foot in their mouth, says something unintentionally mean, and hurts a fellow believer. It can cause so much harm that that person might leave the church they attend and might even leave the church all together if it happens more than once.
How can you use what you say to build someone up instead of putting your foot in your mouth? How can you say things that cheer people on instead of tearing them down?
As I look at the reasons why people don’t like the church, don’t like coming to church, they point to Christians. When I ask non-believers about Jesus, they speak of His love. They speak of His desire to reach those on the fringes of society. They speak of His acceptance. And when I ask non-believers (and even those burnt by the church) to describe Christians, they speak of hypocrites, of bigots, of people who only look out for themselves, of people who speak harsh words, gossip, and are inclusive. As a follower of Jesus, this pains me.
But then I also hear something else. I hear about how Christians are the first on the scene when disasters strike. I hear about how Christians open their churches and homes to the homeless and poor. How Christians open up soup kitchens and homeless centers. And that gladdens my heart.
Do your words match your actions and do your actions match your words? If you are a follower of Jesus, do your words reflect Him?
What we say matters. Make your words sweet and tasteful, you never know when you’ll have to eat them.