Mom always said, “Think before you speak.” Dad used to say, “Son, you don’t have to say everything you think.” And in spite of all of that good advice, I have said more dumb things that I care to remember.
Some of the dumb things I have said have just been cause for a good laugh. Anyone who speaks publicly as often as I do is bound to mix up words and say something off the wall. I once said to a bride, “Take this finger and place it on the finger of your bride.” Of course I denied that vociferously until confronted with the video evidence. Memorex doesn’t lie.
But more often than not, the bad things I have said were not merely humorous mistakes. No, I have said things that were mean-spirited, and they have been willful and intentional. And I am certain I am not alone in my foolishness.
In his letter to the church, James speaks about the trouble we find with our tongues. He reminds us that the tongue is powerful and hurtful, even though it is a small member of our body. And he encourages us to be careful with our words.
Listen to this sound advice: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” How much trouble could we avoid if we would simply take heed to those words? How many fights and quarrels might never take place? How many feelings would never be hurt?
When we were young, we all heard the little ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” But that’s not true. In fact, some of the deepest scars we carry are those left by words. How careful we ought to be in the things that we say.
I encourage you to do what your mother taught: “Watch your mouth.” Speak words that encourage and give hope. Even when offering a necessary reprimand, do it with care and out of love.
God will help you, but you must make the effort. Words matter. Measure yours carefully.