How to Keep Your Lips Zipped
"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3 (ESV)
I still remember the first time I witnessed the power of zipped lips.
Sitting around my tiny dorm room with a group of girls in college, the topic of someone else on campus came up. One by one, everyone chimed in and shared their opinion about this person.
That is, everyone but my roommate. She sat silently on the bed, staring out the window. Even when another girl asked directly, "Don’t you think so, too?" she said nothing.
Finally, someone asked if she was listening. Her reply was classic. "Oh, yes. I am listening all right. And I don’t think I have anything to say. We shouldn’t be talking like this behind her back."
The silence that followed was deafening. But I learned a good lesson.
My roommate was right. None of us would want others to talk about us, so why were we so eager to talk? Yes, perhaps the most effective way to avoid gossip is to simply keep our lips zipped. And if you want another powerful tool to do that, you might try what I started doing a few years back.
Make a Promise; Keep a Commitment
Years ago, I received a call from someone wanting to know if I’d read the newspaper that day. I hadn’t.
But I didn’t need to see it, because the caller then related all the details about a news story* from the small town where I lived at the time. They asked if I knew a person mentioned in the article — who’d just been arrested for a horrific offense.
I did know the person. A close relative of theirs was a friend. My heart ached as I imagined what my friend might be experiencing since she was totally blindsided by the situation. Soon my phone started ringing and I heard the computer alerting me to new email messages.
Knowing it was wrong to talk about this situation, I chose not to pick up the phone and ignored the emails for fear someone might mention the incident to me. I wanted so much to honor God — and my friend — and avoid gossiping about this situation. It was then that I felt God nudge me, saying, "Really? Then tell her that."
So I sent my friend a text. I said she was loved and treasured, that I could not imagine what she was going through, and then added this note: "I just want you to know that I will not be talking about this situation to anyone other than God. Please let me know how I can pray for you. And if you want to talk or need anything at all, call or text me. We love you."
I wanted (and needed!) the Lord to help me refrain from idle talk about what was happening to this family. The author of Psalm 141:3, today’s key verse, obviously need the same help when he wrote: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."
By contacting my friend and making a direct commitment to her, I felt like I had set a "guard over my mouth." And if I ever felt tempted to bring up the situation, I zipped my lips before any words emerged. I simply would not go back on a promise to a friend or to God. Making this commitment to my friend was life-changing. Because I promised her I would not gossip, I didn’t. (Thank God for that!)
If someone else brought up the situation, I said I’d promised my friend not to discuss the situation with anyone besides her and God. The promise helped me refrain from gossiping, and encouraged a few other people to do the same.
In our gossip-rich culture, the choice to remain silent will be hard. But like the psalmist, we can ask God for help, knowing He’ll be a faithful guard over the door of our lips.
Lord, help me honor You with my words. Please set a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to say something that will hurt You and someone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 10:19, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." (NLT)
Proverbs 20:19, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do any of the verses above prick your conscience you as you read them? Is God asking you to make a call, send a text or craft a private message asking for forgiveness?
Will you commit to not gossiping about someone else’s "newsworthy" life in a gossipy sort of way? If so, tell one trusted friend about your commitment.
*Special Note from Karen Ehman: Some details in this story have been changed to protect my friend, who granted me permission to use it.