It is sad how careless we are with our words, even to those we love the most. Words are not neutral. Remember the little rhyme we learned in our childhood?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me”.
That isn’t true, is it? Sometimes words that break one’s heart are remembered for a lifetime, but most of us forget broken bones. And it is the words that are said, not unsaid, that bring us the most pain.
All of us are guilty of saying too much or saying something with a wrong spirit. I have regretted saying things to my family. I wish I could have a do-over where I kept my mouth shut, but it’s too late and the damage was done. If only I had been quiet.
There are benefits to those that are careful with their words. I’ll mention two advantages in being quiet in this post. One benefit of speaking carefully is that it keeps you from sinning. The Bible teaches that the more you say, the more likely you are to sin.
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) The wisest man that ever lived (besides the Lord Jesus), Solomon, wrote these words. This simple truth provides both a benefit and a consequence in how much we say.
It is a warning against verbosity. Those that speak their mind quickly often have great regrets later because of what they said.
I had a dear friend who is now in Heaven that was so witty. His mind quickly associated different meanings to what was said by others and he was very creative in bringing humor into the conversation. It was unrehearsed and spontaneous and I loved spending time with him. I can still remember a lot of his comebacks and funny comments after thirty years!
One day after he had said something that made me laugh I said, “Joe, I wish I had your wit! You are so funny and creative with what you say”. Without hesitation, and very seriously, he replied, “Oh, no. You don’t want that, Rick. I have gotten into more trouble with what I say because I speak so quickly and without thinking”. I never forgot that.
I had only experienced the assets of his wit because of the fun and laughter, but he was mindful of the liabilities of it. Perhaps he was thinking of times when he spoke too quickly with his family. The same is true of all of us. Sometimes we speak spontaneously when it would have been better if we had been quiet.
A second benefit of watching your words is that it keeps you out of trouble. Here’s another passage in the Bible that states that the more you say, the more trouble you find yourself in.
“A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” (Proverbs 18:6-7)
Sometimes what we say isn’t sinful, but it is foolish, unnecessary, and hurtful. The result is that we end up trying to extricate ourselves from a sticky situation.
The word “strokes” in the above verse has the idea of being smacked with a blow from a whip. It refers to a person becoming argumentive and then experiencing rebuke from the person he hurt with his angry remarks. Untimely, unnecessary and angry words provoke a person to push back. The relationship is in trouble because of what was said.
Also, it says that our mouth brings personal destruction and becomes a “snare” to us. The word “snare” means a trap that is used to secure animals in hunting. When an animal is trapped they cannot get out of it; they are stuck!
We become trapped because of our lack of forethought in what we were saying. Someone said, “One minute of keeping your mouth shut is worth one hour of explanation”.
Many years ago I was going through a very difficult situation that involved a leadership issue and my making a decision on a prickly situation. I was a young pastor and sought advice from one of my mentors, Dr. Lee Roberson. Eating at his favorite restaurant (Shoneys) I presented the matter and my options. He counseled me to not get involved because of the potential problems that would come to me that weren’t worth the intervention.
During that conversation he said something simple that I never forget, “Rick, if you say it, you will be quoted on it”. I still remember those words and how wise they were; they impacted me. It was so simple, but powerful. The reverse angle is likewise true, “You can’t be quoted on what you don’t say”.
Our family members aren’t likely to quote our inappropriate or angry words to other people, but worse, they will quote them in their hearts over and over. Sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Another Scripture that cautions us against verbosity – “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction”. (Proverbs 13:3)
The more a person says, the greater the tendency to say something that is hurtful and damaging. Of course, this happens especially with those whom we spend the most time, our family and friends.
Someone wisely wrote, “No one has to explain something he hasn’t said”. There have been too many occasions when I have had to go to my wife or children and “explain” my comments. Most of the time what was needed wasn’t an explanation, but a heartfelt apology. Far better for me and for them that I had never made them in the first place.
This is a struggle we all face. May I encourage you to scroll back through this post and copy the references of the Scripture verses and put them in a well-traveled place that you might be reminded of God’s warning against verbosity. Even better, take the time to memorize them. These words of God will keep us from using our own words that will bring us sin and trouble.