“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
This week we will continue the focus on being disciplined in the way we communicate. Every day we communicate with others, and God calls us to choose our words carefully and wisely. In order to be effective agents of God’s kingdom—in order to be effective in anything in life—it is necessary to be disciplined in your speech and use what you say for the benefit and encouragement of others.
Scripture provides many instructions on how to be effective in the way you communicate. Proverbs, in particular, gives timeless advice about being disciplined in what you say, how you say it, and why.
- Proverbs 17.27-28: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
Exercise verbal restraint. Don’t say more than is necessary. Manage your emotions, control your spirit, keep your spirit “cool.” Do not let mismanaged emotions speak for you. Communicate with wisdom or be silent. To put it more bluntly, either speak wisely or be quiet. Better to not say anything than to speak foolishly.
- Proverbs 18.2,13, 17: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion … If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame … The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
Listen attentively and speak wisely. Seek first to understand. Don’t offer an opinion unless you have done your homework. It is foolish to give an opinion about things you do not understand. If you speak hastily, you will embarrass yourself. Be careful about speaking too soon and without considering a broader perspective.
- Proverbs 18.21: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.“
What you say matters. So does how you say it. Reckless words can do great damage. Wise words can help and heal and give life.
Wise people think before they speak or write or tweet. They do not jump to conclusions. They are elite listeners who seek first to understand. Wise people do not promote a narrative; they pursue truth. Their goal isn’t to win an argument or complain or blame; their goal is to get things done, solve problems, and make things better.
May you be wise in the way you use our words.
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1.26)