When words are many, transgression is not absent, but the prudent are restrained in speech. Proverbs 10:19
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Mark Twain once opined, “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all shadow of doubt.” It’s evident that he was simply updating the wisdom of Israel’s sages, who had observed that “Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.” (Proverbs 17:28, The Message)
I suspect I’m not alone in my struggle to rein in my tongue. There are words I’ve spoken over the years which I’d love to have the opportunity to take back. Unfortunately, I can’t. And the same is true for you.
How can we avoid doing harm with our words? Where can we learn to tame the tongue? The Rotary Club recommends a four-way test for its members before they open their mouth to speak.
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I know of a church leadership team which uses the following response whenever any church member comes speaking negatively of another: “And what did that person say when you told him/her?” If the complainer hasn’t taken this first step, the conversation is over.
Scripture has much to say about the constructive and destructive use of words. The discipline of silence is one proverbial recommendation for folks like me who may enjoy talking too much. Another is to think about what you say and allow only words that build others up to come out of your mouth. May God help us be people who use our words to heal and edify, rather than hurt and tear down.
Love in Christ,
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