Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Be Careful What You Say

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

We live in a culture of talk and tweets. We’re encouraged to express our feelings, hold nothing back.

Recently we’ve all seen in national news how people’s unrestrained talk can get them into public hot water.  Every day I see the relational fallout that comes from thoughtless, deceitful, and cruel words.

Hear me.

There are times we ought to keep our negative thoughts and emotions to ourselves and refuse to give them a voice. The Bible warns us that our tongue can be a mighty weapon, for good and for evil. (James 3:2-12). Proverbs warns us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword”  (Proverbs 12:18).

We can damage a person’s spirit, family, or reputation by blurting out negative thoughts and feelings without any thought or prayer.  Yes, it might temporarily feel better to blurt them out when we’re mad or hurt, but I liken blurting to vomit.  Vomit belongs in the toilet and not on another person.

But it’s not only good for the other person that we learn not to blurt our negative thoughts and feelings during moments of great intensity. It is also good for us.

Proverbs 21:23 says, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

Proverbs 13:3 says, “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

1 Peter 3:10 says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”

Imagine how much better you would feel if you weren’t always complaining or critical of something wrong in your life?  How would your relationships be improved if the people you loved didn’t feel angry with you by your reckless or deceitful words?  How different would you feel about yourself if you weren’t so captured by your own negative feelings and thoughts?

Here are three things you can do to develop the ministry of the closed mouth.*

1. Decide: No matter how negatively you feel you make a conscious decision that you will not vomit your toxic emotions out on others.  (Don’t get me wrong – you may have to speak some hard words at times, but hard words need not be harsh words).  The psalmist determined, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in m presence” (Psalm 39:1).

2. Acknowledge the Struggle: In Psalm 39 despite his vow to keep silent, the psalmist found keeping quite pretty tough.  Silence didn’t bring the psalmist satisfaction but more anguish (see verses 2 and 3). During this time of anguish and temptation write a no-send letter venting out your feelings or praying them out to God until you can get a better perspective and calm down.

3. Remember the Big Picture:  It’s crucial that you understand that YOU are much more than your temporal thoughts and feelings. We all have negative thoughts and feelings but it’s important to not allow them to have us.  Instead of getting stuck in your mood or negative thoughts, remind yourself that you are more than your feelings and you will have to give an account for how you handled adversity. Remember your goals (I don’t want to vomit on people), your deeper desires (I want to be a godly person, or I don’t want to have regrets later) or your values (I want to treat people as I would like to be treated). This practice helps us develop the muscle of restraint and self-control so that we don’t become a slave to our emotions.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words…It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.”

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*I first read this phrase “Ministry of the Closed Mouth” in The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg

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