But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Matthew 15: 18
The Holy Spirit has really heightened my sensitivity this summer to the words that come from my mouth. Perhaps it is because I recently spent a weekend with my mom. (see blog titled “A Strong Spear” on June 4th)
She governs her life simply: by prayer and a positive mindset. As a result she has developed a resilient ability to find pleasure in absolutely all that she does. My mom does everything with gusto –“heartily as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). From peeling potatoes to scrubbing her deck, she is enthusiastic even when doing the most mundane tasks. It can be irritating at times, especially if you rationalize a reason to be negative or complain in her presence- something she will not let you get by with. Doing so generates an invitation to join her in prayer and praise to Jesus and the two contrasting attitudes cannot co-exist.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, the words that come out of our mouths say a lot about who we are. They spring out of our thoughts and reveal our attitudes. And our words have powerful influence, especially with our children, who can act like they do not hear our commands yet at the same time hear absolutely everything we say to and about others! Our words have a life of their own, creating impressions, forming opinions and shaping feelings. They are often repeated over and over from person to person and even as inner self-talk, recycling on and on. No wonder the Bible has plenty to say about the words we speak.
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21: 23
For as he thinks in his heart so is he. Proverbs 23:7
He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction. Proverbs 13:3
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12: 36-38
We live in a society where it is common place to judge others, ordinary to make sarcastic comments at the expense of others, and easy to be careless and unedifying with our speech. Criticism is one of the everyday activities of people, but nothing in the spiritual realm is accomplished by it. Furthermore, Jesus’ instruction with regard to judging others is simply put: DON’T! We must rise above the commonplace and the ordinary and model for our kids a higher road.
Words can be life giving or life depleting, and in either chase they are major value shapers. Some people have a way of lifting my spirits each time I am around them. They leave me feeling refreshed and encouraged. A critical, complaining or sarcastic spirit however can deflate me within minutes.
What type of influence should our words be with our spouse, with our children, with co-workers, and with friends? I find it easy to be encouraging and positive when everything is going well. The true test happens when I am overwhelmed, tired, upset, angry, discouraged or disappointed. At those times I must stop and examine my thoughts before they become words because rarely are the first thoughts during difficult times worth expressing. “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” (Dorothy Nevill) Writing about how to maintain a loving attitude under trials, James wrote that we are to “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
May our aim be to become swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger in our treatment of others and may our hearts grow increasingly more sensitive to the nature and tone of our words, that they might edify and encourage others rather than discourage and deplete. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Thoughts to Ponder
Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret! Ambrose Bierce
One comes to believe whatever one repeats to oneself sufficiently often, whether the statement be true or false. It comes to be dominating thought in one’s mind. Robert Collier
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. Hugh Downs
A pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds, and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; an optimist doesn’t see the clouds at all – he’s walking on them. Leonard Louis Levinson