Be honest. Is there a person with whom every time you have a conversation, it’s really more of a monologue? If you’re lucky enough to get a complete sentence in, they take what you’ve said and give an in-depth example about an experience from their own life that exemplifies your point. You listen… and then open your mouth, only for the oxygen to be vacuumed from your oral cavity by their rapid inhalation and quick-fire chattering which completely redirects the conversation. How can they lock, load, and fire that fast anyway?! After 30 minutes, you find that a wide variety of topics have been covered, but you are still loaded with unspoken thoughts which you were unable to voice.
Or maybe it’s the guy in Sunday School or Board Meetings who always has an opinion on everything. Before the presentation is made in its completion and the floor is open for discussion, you know how he feels about it all. During the discussion time, if someone else offers an opinion or a thought, he is usually the first to rebuttal or clarify. Many times, his words have put himself in an un-defendable position, but he is unwilling to bend. Or perhaps you “misunderstood what he said” at first. Sometimes I’m amazed at how quickly someone can form an opinion and fire it off. Like a quick-draw, rapid-fire fully automatic Bla-Gun.
The biblical book of Proverbs has some advice for us here:
“The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding. Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning, when he seals his lips.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)
– Did you get that? Even a fool is sometimes considered wise if he’ll keep his mouth shut long enough.
– I can think of quite a few people for whom I have the utmost respect in this area. They are incredibly wise, and biblically knowledgeable. But they don’t talk a whole lot. In fact, it’s almost like these people get great pleasure from hearing others work out the truth themselves, instead of offering quick answers and advise. I can’t remember many, if any, times when these individuals have flipped their lid or gotten extremely angry over anything. They listen. They evaluate. And when they are sure of their convictions, they speak them with brevity, precision, and clarity.
“A fool’s lips lead to strife, and his mouth provokes a beating. A fool’s mouth is his devastation, and his lips are a trap for his life. A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” (Proverbs 18:6-8)
– An old line I’ve heard in many different sitcoms and movies throughout the years goes like this: “That mouth of yours is going to get you in trouble some day!” Okay, okay… maybe my parents have said it to me a time or two as well… It is amazing how words can absolutely destroy someone. Take Nancy Pelosi’s infamous line from recent political barrage: “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.” She’ll never live that one down. So many examples, so little space here.
– And gossip… can we touch on this?… at the time of delivery, it seems so satisfying. But it will consume you. It will infect even your “inner-most being.” If you’ve ever gotten sucked into gossip with someone, you will probably admit that it has a profound affect on your relationship with him or her, as well as on your own psychological and physical well-being. Pretty soon, every time you are around your fellow gossiper, all you can talk about is the news surrounding the object of your gossip. Soon enough, every time you see the person about whom you are gossiping, or ever hear her name spoken, you are filled with animosity and negativity. Surely there is something more relationally – and even physically – healthy to discuss.
“The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
– Giving instructions before a 2nd grade assignment, there are usually two or three hands that pop up during the teacher’s explanation. And what does she say?… “Please hold your questions until I am finished explaining the assignment.” Many times in a conversation, the “listener” (and I use the term lightly) will ask questions, make statements, and interject thoughts while the “talker” is delivering. Not only rude, says Proverbs 18:13… but foolish. Listen for understanding.
– I love reading words like “disgraceful” in passages like these. If you look up synonyms for “disgraceful,” you’ll probably find words like “shameful,” and “blameworthy.” Let me give you a clue, friend… when you speak before listening, it drastically reduces your level of perceived intelligence. You often look foolish. And many times, you are put to shame because of your arrogant ignorance.
“From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is satisfied; he is filled with the product of his lips. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:20-21)
– Usually, we think of words as something that come FROM our body, and not INTO it. That is true. But what we say has its fruit, and this fruit is that with which we fill our stomachs. If the words of your mouth are slanderous, impure, malicious, or deceitful, you are being satisfied with the consumption of those traits. Your heart and psyche are being fed by these appalling victuals. However, if your words are loving, kind, empathetic, and considerate, you are feasting on the delectable cuisine of righteousness.
– Life and death. The most basic certainties of this world. They are in your tongue. Do you speak life, or do you speak death? The one you allow to permeate your speech will be the one which characterizes your existence on this planet. It’s your choice.
Grace and Peace,