Think Before You Speak

There are two conversations that I have had with my children more than any others.   The first is to obey the first time.   We taught them that obedience is doing what you are told to do, when you are told to do it, with the right heart attitude.    If the task is not done the first time, it is not obedience.

The second conversation I have had with my kids most often is to think before you speak.  I have put Scriptures verses dealing with the subject on our refrigerator, on the inside of their doors in their bedrooms, and on their dressers.   I wanted that truth to be imprinted upon their hearts and minds.

The reason behind most of the conflicts between our children have had to do with their words.     Where did they learn this?    Of course, our fallen nature has a propensity to speak when we ought to be quiet, but I am afraid they saw it sometimes in their parents.    Not only in our words with our children, but with each other.

I love Paula more than anyone else in the world and even after being married for more than a third of a century I still can say things to her that I wish I never had.   I’m glad that they have decreased in number through the years, but the temptation is still there.    I can’t speak for her, but I think that she would say she struggled sometimes with the same issue with me and our children.

Most of us have no idea how much we talk.   If every word you said in a day’s time were typed into a manuscript it would equate to a small book.   This “book” you produced in the past week, how much of it would you want others to read?

One of our problems is that are there no classes on conversation skills.   There are courses in schools on how to make good speeches, but none on common, every day conversations between family members, friends, and coworkers.    However, the Bible speaks to this issue frequently, especially in the book of Proverbs.

During the past twenty-four hours how many of your words can you remember?   I would bet not many.   For me, I can’t even recall verbatim the words I used in a conversation ten minutes earlier!

Ironically, one of the best ways to learn to be a good conversationalist is to not say as much as you ordinarily would.   We ought to make an inventory of our words before we speak.  More relationships are ruined because of talking too much than any other reason.   Our words are potent – to do good and to do damage.

The Bible lays down a simple principle for us to follow – “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.   (James 1:19)   This is easier said than done.   It is not enough to excuse our freeness and quickness to speak just based on our personality or temperament.    God’s wisdom is that we should be careful to speak and more quick to listen.

When a person is able to control their speech it has positive residual effects to other areas of their lives – “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body”.   (James 3:2)     The word “perfect” doesn’t mean sinless, but mature.  Holding your tongue when you want to say something you ought not is an evidence of spiritual maturity.   If we can put a bridle on our speech we can control our body.   The way a person uses his words is an indicator of how disciplined he is in other areas of his life.

Our words are not able to be tamed by determination alone – “…the tongue can no man tame…”.   (James 3:8a)    Only God can enable a person to control their speech.   This is important because the tongue is naturally evil, able to kill reputations and is compared to a serpent with deadly poison in his tongue – “…it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”.   (James 3:8b)

In the next few posts I’ll deal with the theme of “being quiet” and “thinking before one speaks”.     Here are some general topics I’ll cover – benefits in being quiet, important times to be quiet, and ways to learn to be quiet.

The thesis of my posts is simple: most relationship problems would be solved if people talked less and used their words with care.    I hope this will be a help to you, especially in your family.

Someone wrote, “It takes a child two years to learn to talk, but it takes a man all his life to learn how to keep his mouth shut”. 

Jordan, April, Paula and I at formal night on a cruise.

May I encourage you to read the book of Proverbs to discover what the Bible has to say about how to use your words?    There is so much in that practical book about this important subject.    One way that has helped me to read the Proverbs is that there are 31 chapters in the book and I take whatever day it is and read that chapter.

For example, today is November 9.   So, I would read Proverbs chapter 9.    It’s like taking vitamins!   Just take a spiritual vitamin a day and you can read the entire book in a month.  And you will be more spiritually healthy.

The goal isn’t to simply read through the entire book, but to look for specific topics that would be helpful to you at that time.    The secret of Bible study is to look for something.  So, why not take the next month and read a chapter of Proverbs every day and look for truths that deal with our speech.   It will be a blessing and help to you!

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
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