One More Year of Choices
By Barbara Dahlgren
Lawyers who battle it out in court have one goal – to win. Therefore, they do not always play fair. Many times they will ask an objectionable question knowing the judge will not allow it. The judge will strike it from the record and instruct the jury not to give it any credibility when rendering a decision, but it will be too late. Lawyers know the jury will remember what is said. They are counting on it because what is said lingers in a person’s mind. Words have a life of their own.
This is why we must be cautious in what we say to others. Even if we apologize for making careless statements to or about others, that does not erase what was said. We cannot strike it from the record or take it back, because people will remember it even if you say you didn’t really mean it. Spoken words don’t just dissolve into the air. They live on and the damage is done.
No wonder the Bible speaks about taming our tongues. (James 3) Both David and James used the metaphor of bridling our tongues. (Psalms 39:1, James 1:26) A bridle is a leather harness and bit placed in a horse’s mouth to control it. That might seem a bit drastic to us, but in all honesty, some of us could benefit from a built-in muzzle that clamps over our mouths when we are about to say something we are going to regret.
As Christians we know the admonitions to not have a flattering tongue (Psalm 5:9), a haughty tongue (Psalm 12:2-4), a lying tongue (Proverbs 25:18), a backbiting tongue (Proverbs 25:23), a talebearer’s tongue (Proverbs 18:8), a cursing tongue (Romans 3:13, 14), a sharp tongue (Proverbs 12:18), or to gossip (Romans 1:29).
Perhaps the hardest tongue to guard against is one that manifests itself when we least expect it because our tongues speak from the abundance of our hearts. (Matthew 12:34) Unfortunately, this seems to happen with those who are closest to us. We say something stupid or hurtful and we don’t even know why. We might think, “I wonder where that came from?” But the heart knows. Someone or something can trigger unresolved issues within us, and we end up regurgitating them on others.
Solomon said to weigh our words carefully. (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3) James said to think before we speak. (James 1:19) Jesus said what goes into our mouths is not as important as what comes out. (Matthew 15:11).
Consider this… Heartfelt words spoken with kindness, consideration, and love are beautiful. (Proverbs 25:11) They can calm, cheer, and encourage others. They are like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Proverbs 12:25) However, careless, thoughtless words can be poisonous. (James 3:8)
Remember that words have a life of their own. What you say today lives on tomorrow!
Suggestions for practicing this choice…
Don’t be too quick to respond. A moment of thought or a little hesitation might improve what you want to say immensely.
If you are discussing a delicate situation, say a little mental prayer before you respond. “Lord, what should I say? Please guide my words. Please put Your words in my mouth.”
If you are thinking you probably shouldn’t say something, then don’t say it. A good clue is when you say, “I probably shouldn’t say this but…”
Don’t pretend to know what you are talking about when you don’t. And don’t assume you know what you are talking about.
Before you speak think about this acronym: