The phrase bursts from your lips like a bull through a rodeo gate. The self-conscious part of you longs to take it back the passionate part of you is racing to form your next thought.
You launch into a detailed story about yourself, with every intention of “relating” to the friend sitting across from you in the crowded coffee shop, only to see them respond in hurt. They soon leave feeling discouraged, wrestling with life and saddened by your seeming lack of genuine care.
It’s late afternoon. Your friend sits dazed in the passenger seat, because it’s been 45 minutes in the car and you haven’t taken a breath, unloading details about the week you’ve had.
You enter a crowded room, full of socializing strangers, and you can’t seem to control the long train of words racing down track out of your mouth. You’re anxious, hoping the words rambling off your tongue mask your insecurity.
You don’t realize until they’re 14 years old how much your children are affected by your verbal discontent with your body, home, or job. You begin hearing your opinions come out of their mouths, and you long for a reset.
Do you find yourself landing on one side of dialogue more than the other?
If there is one powerful element to life that is underestimated, it is our speech. The way we speak, the opinions we fancy, and the time we choose to speak have greater consequences than we realize. James charges us to “be quick to hear” and “slow to speak” (James 1:19-20).
The Bible also says that what comes out of a person’s mouth defiles them, not what goes in (Matthew 15:11). It goes on to say our words should be used to build others up, to impart grace to all who hear us speaking (Ephesians 4:29), and refers to the tongue as fire, a “world of unrighteousness” (James 3:6).
Ranting about a frustrating employee to your spouse over dinner may not seem like a big deal, but as it becomes a habit, it drains, rather than refreshes, your dinner time. Allowing insecurity or frustration to rule your soul is like dragging a hidden anchor with you everywhere, distracting from the joy and celebration of an occasion. Taking inventory of your emotions before they explode from your mouth would minimize many a quiet or yelling fight. Choosing to speak wisely and thoughtfully amidst family and friends will cultivate in your home an atmosphere of peace. Declaring statements and never asking questions will make you a tiresome person to be around.
Your words contain the power to breathe life into someone’s soul. Your words can be a lifeline to someone grasping faintly at hope. Your words have healing potential (Proverbs 12:18, 18:20-21). Your words could sow seeds that grow to bloom beauty. With your words, you have the capacity to be a cheerleader, counselor, coach, teacher, or confidant.
In contrast, your words are not always needed. The value of knowing when to choose silence is almost as vital as when to speak up. And most of all, throughout your life, in the joys and challenges, your words can confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:11). How will you choose to yield the power of your tongue? What will it look like for you to love God, and your neighbor as yourself, with your words?