As bedtime was nearing and I was finishing up with the usual toothbrushing and face washing in the loo, one Hero of a Hubs already reading in bed, the thought occurred to me to complain about something. Nothing majorly offensive or utterly life-changing, just a passing comment made by a passing person that I didn’t particularly care for. (The comment, not the person.) It was one of those little comments that might get under your skin like a splinter — the choice is yours how to set about getting it out.
But as I prepared to walk out of the bathroom and open my mouth, another thought occurred to me: Why bother talking about it?
This thought was immediately followed by perhaps a much more significant one — a reminder of an acronym I’ve been repeating to our children of late, to help them consider whether some words that are inside their sweet little brains ought to come out of their sweet little mouths.
You may have heard the acronym for the word, THINK — in correspondence with each letter of the word, there’s a question to be asked about the thing you’re considering saying. Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
Of course no sooner was this acronym flashing across my mind than I immediately thought to myself, Well, Mama, can you practice what you preach?
Let’s get right down to it before anyone nominates me for sainthood (giggle, snort): I am not yet in control of my tongue. I’d like to blame being caught up in a generation of folks who feel that anything that they feel particularly strongly about needs to be shared with the community at large, most often virtually, without anyone asking about it. Better translated? These days it seems we get annoyed about something and feel the immediate need to post a “Rant” about it on social media, perhaps in addition to complaining In Real Life.
Certainly there is a time and a place for many-a-feeling to be expressed. But perhaps it’s not as often as we think?
I kept my mouth closed, climbed into bed, and opened my Bible to the next section on my daily reading list — where I promptly found myself in Proverbs, reading and re-reading each verse, because it can take a while for me to even begin to comprehend the depth behind some of these verses that are barely the length of an average sentence.
Then Proverbs 29:11 greeted me, and my mouth hung open for a moment:
A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.
I so often get this wrong.
I so often feel that my opinion about things is absolutely important and must by necessity be heard.
Now this is a different thing from actually experiencing some sort of hardship which you could use the help of a friend to get past — but how often would I do the world a favor by keeping my big mouth shut, spending some further time discussing the issue with the Lord in prayer, and then, only if necessary, choosing to discuss the matter, with great discretion, with an appropriate party?
Recently, I was upset about something someone said, and in discussing it with that person, overreacted and had a multitude of opinions to share with that person regarding how I felt about the situation. I didn’t slow down, I didn’t truly consult the Lord, and I foolishly vented all my feelings, with the idea that I might fully express how I felt, and then we could resolve the issue.
Proverbs 10:19 greeted me later that day:
In the multitude of words sin in not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
Had I chosen to wait, to pray, to think carefully before responding, and be slow to just say say say, I would’ve avoided offending (and honestly, hurting) the person who offended me, and struck a better course toward fostering peace between us.
Last night, after I read that first verse (above), I paused to give thanks that the Lord had led me to show restraint. If the tongue is a rudder, the ship is the heart — and heaven knows that a tongue can steer a heart in many directions. I also asked forgiveness because I so often fall short — me and my big mouth — in honoring the Lord with what I choose to say and what I choose to refrain from saying.
I continued reading and sensed His confirmation that He’d been leading me on a path toward peace as I read Proverbs 29:20:
Do you see a man hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Truthfully, our words are so powerful, in how they steer our own hearts, and how they steer and affect the hearts of the people around us. With our furiously fast fingers and a quick click, we are instantly able to put our hearts, our thoughts, our opinions, and our words, out to friends and family so quickly, and even out there for hundreds, if not thousands, of people to read.
But we’re foolish to think they all need to be put out there.
Are we stopping to think whether or not we should speak or type? Perhaps this or that statement is True — but is it Helpful? Necessary? Will it Inspire others or encourage them to also rant, vent, or complain right along with us? Could we THINK a little more carefully about what is truly grieving us, and how we might better translate that into an inspiring message, if anything actually needs to be said? A word that helps with its kindness?
Just a couple days ago, Gmail officially added an “Undo Send” button to their Mail feature. It was an experimental feature available for some time, but now is a permanent option which can be enabled inside their Mail application. My sister is often hilariously observant about life and commented on Facebook:
Just enabled my “undo send” button on gmail. Somehow I don’t think 30 seconds is going to be enough time for me to realize I’ve said something stupid.
I read her words and thought: I am absolutely in the same boat. Guilty as charged, me and my big mouth.
We can’t very often ‘undo,’ ‘unsend,’ or ‘unsay’ the words we allow to come out of our mouths (or our text messages and inboxes). So the best option we have is to carefully consider them before they leave our brains.
As I read just a little more, closing up for the evening last night, I came across a word that gave me some hope. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says:
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.
Thank you, Lord — there is hope for me and my big mouth. There’s grace. There’s forgiveness.
And, if we can take heed and hear the Father’s heart as He encourages us to carefully consider our words before just letting them fly out of our mouths, we will be protected from giving so many footholds to the enemy of our souls. We’ll also be shielded from doing a bit of injury to ourselves, or to people we care about, in the process.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Life rarely gives us a genuine ‘unsend’ button for our words — so let’s give plenty of thought to which ones we allow to come out.