Did you ever say something that you were thinking, and immediately wish you could force the words back into your mouth? Sometimes words just come out when we let our guard down or when we are in a particularly bad mood. And those words can be destructive to relationships, to the morale of another, and can be the worst possible witness to someone who knows you are a Christian.
I know I’m guilty of saying things then immediately realizing I shouldn’t have said them. Truth be told, I usually know I shouldn’t say them even before they see the light of day, but I let them out anyway. The funny thing is, I can easily find someone who will tell me it’s okay, to defend my right to say what I have said. Our society has become so accustomed to mean and complaining speech, and even to lying, that most people have lost any compass to what is right speech. In fact, just last week I was complaining about someone never coming through on time, and even used some words I almost never use. I apologized to the person I was speaking to (who is a fellow Christian), saying I shouldn’t say such things, and she said, “That’s okay. I understand.” Ironically, I checked my email a few minutes later only to find the document I had complained I wouldn’t get on time right there!
James wrote condemning such speech:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:9-12
I want my words to always glorify God, and most of the time they do. But does the salt of my wrong words ruin the fresh taste of my praise to God? I know God, though the Holy Spirit, is quick to let me know when my words are not pleasing. But does it really matter? If I praise God today, what is the harm if I complain about or curse someone else tomorrow? The world doesn’t seem to think it is a problem. I think a line in the song “Nothing at All” by Third Day answers the question well:
I think it’s time that we all realize
a broken heart is hard to mend
If you can’t say nothin’ good don’t say nothin’ at all
Sometimes the damage done by words spoken carelessly can’t be undone. Hearts can be broken, reputations tarnished, relationships irreparably harmed.
But positive speech, finding and speaking of the good in others, is not only pleasing to God but makes for a better life for the speaker and those around them. Psalm 34 has great advice on this topic. I think I’m going to try, with the help of God, to follow the advice of King David.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
If you want to accept this challenge with me, here’s what I’m praying today: “Lord, help me to tame my tongue. I have proven over and over that I can’t do it on my own, but through the power of your Holy Spirit, I can do anything. Help me to speak only words that will glorify you. Amen.”