“She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
Some of the most successful people I know are shy, quiet, and reserved; those wise individuals who choose to think before they speak, or just not speak at all. I see it all the time in workplaces, in social settings, at family gatherings, and in my home on a daily basis. I am a talker even among the outspoken and seem to have a knack for blurting out the first thing that comes to mind without much consideration for the consequences. There are times that this is a wonderful asset, but other times I wish my final words could be “I’m melting…” like the Wicked Witch, never to be heard from again!
There are many advantages about the tongue and lips, or our mouth, and what comes out of it. These sayings may change from generation to generation but I believe the original maxims were God’s; and these short statements that give us general truths and rules of conduct could quite possibly change the world, if not just our own lives and the lives of those around us.
Looking at my Bible’s concordance I am overwhelmed by the number of references to “mouth,” “lips,” and “tongue.” Here are a few choice selections to get you thinking…
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29)
They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. (Ps 12:2)
On account of the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, let them even be caught in their pride, and on account of curses and lies which they utter. (Ps 59:12)
“They bend their tongue like their bow; Lies and not truth prevail in the land; For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:3)
Then there’s Proverbs…those short, to-the-point do’s and don’ts that put Dear Abby to shame!
He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool. (10:18)
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. (10:19)
Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment. (12:19)
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight. (12:22)
The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13:3)
A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. (18:7)
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles. (21:23)
This is so clear cut in scripture, and anyone will tell you that it’s imperative to think before you speak, to speak kindly, not to gossip or lie…it’s straightforward for most of us. But we do it all the time anyway, without thinking, and usually consider it one of those “little” sins. Let me throw this out to you…one of the basis tenants of psychology is that our behavior is the tip of the iceberg; what can be observed of the bigger part that’s underneath. Because under that behavior (speech) is the stuff that is really driving us. It might be our thoughts, past experiences, self-concept, past trauma or pain, or our fears. Virtually anything, whether we are aware of it or not, can drive our behavior. Luke 6:45 says it like this: The good [woman] out of the good treasure of [her] heart brings forth what is good; and the evil [woman] out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for [her] mouth speaks from that which fills [her] heart.
So, what’s in your heart? What’s happened to you that causes you to lash out with your tongue? Or is it just that the connection between your brain and your mouth sometimes short-circuits? Do you fear silence so much that you’re willing to fill it with anything that pops into your head? At a deeper level…do you take God seriously?
The wonderful thing is that God is gracious and full of mercy. He knows what you’re going to say even before you utter a word and if you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, God will set a guard over your mouth and keep watch over the door of your lips (Ps 141:3). He will keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit (Ps 34:13).
It helps me to have some concrete actions to take. I have no doubt that repenting of my sin and asking for God to give me the power to control my tongue makes a difference, but sometimes it helps me to take some steps in the right direction myself.
- Don’t interrupt. Not only is it rude (we all hate to be interrupted) but we tend to think ahead to what we’re going to say and not really listen to others. When you consciously listen, and take a moment to think you’ll honor the speaker and you won’t rush ahead with your possibly unnecessary thoughts and words.
- Really listen to what you say. Analyze your words. What’s the belief underlying your words? Why did you say what you said? Is there anything under your behavior (speech) that needs to be addressed?
- Silence is golden. We’ve all heard that one, but in today’s social media world no one seems to remember that even when we’re not speaking out loud, we are possibly sharing too much information! Take time to be quiet when you’re alone. Don’t feel like you must fill the void of silence.
- When you realize you’ve said something hurtful or unkind, when you’ve gossiped or shared anything of which you’re not part of the problem or the solution…make amends. Apologize. Yeah…that in itself is enough to get me to shut my mouth!
- Memorize Luke 6:45
With God’s help, I believe we can put an end to the common idea that women just can’t help but gossip. Words are very powerful – to help or to hurt – and being successful in this area of our lives is really a big part of being the Titus II Woman.
As the Psalmist says, “deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. Lord open my lips that my mouth may declare your praise! My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which you have redeemed.” You know our thoughts and our hearts Lord, and we know that we are sinful, much more prone to hurtful words than we like to admit. Help us to think before we speak, to seek your forgiveness and the forgiveness of others when our tongues cause pain or outright lie. Help us, Holy Spirit, to have hearts full of Christ’s love so that we might overflow with words of thankfulness and grace to a hurting world that needs to see You in us. In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen.