The Day I Couldn’t Shut Up
"Do you see a man who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 29:20 (HCSB)
Has your mouth ever gotten you in trouble — yes, even made you sin — all because you talked too much?
It’s certainly happened to me.
Years ago while visiting with a friend at a high school basketball game we discussed a budding new relationship between our 17-year-olds — her son and my daughter. It was nothing official, but we knew they liked each other, and we were pleased.
I rattled on about how my husband and I worked hard to teach our kids to choose whom to date, or even marry, based on more than just their looks. We’d often joke that looks shouldn’t matter since we’re all headed toward ugly anyway. (Then my daughter would chime in, "That’s all the more reason to pick someone with a great starting point!")
In trying to express how happy we were that our daughter listened to us and not only chose someone who was good-looking, but also displayed godly traits and had a wonderful personality, somehow my friend thought I was saying we were glad our daughter chose on character because — boy, was her son homely!
It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized I had conveyed the wrong message. I received a letter from my friend stating how hurt she was by my backhanded compliment about her son’s character, implying he was unattractive.
I was floored.
And devastated. And misunderstood. And now I had a fractured friendship with someone I’d really hoped to get to know better. All because of my words.
Immediately, I called to apologize and shared what I meant to say before my rambling thoughts came out as misspoken words — that then led to misunderstanding, conflict and offense.
Thankfully my friend accepted my apology and six years later we are still friends!
If we want to avoid offending our friends — or committing any number of verbal sins — we need to learn to control our lips. When we sense a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit that signals a downward spiral, we can simply say, "I’m sorry. I’m talking too much." And then? As my dad used to say (much like the character Festus from Gunsmoke), we can "shut our tater trap!"
Speaking too soon. Before we really understand all the facts. Before we’ve listened fully to the other side. And most importantly, before we’ve had time to pray and process what we’ve heard with the Lord. When we do any one or even a combination of those things, we are foolish.
Scripture has many things to say about fools. Our key verse today is just one: "Do you see a man who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).
In order not to speak too soon, we need to cultivate two habits:
Perfect the art of the pause. Pausing creates white space in a conversation that enables us to sort out our thoughts before we let out our words. Counting to 10 before responding provides just enough wiggle room to really think through what we are about to say.
Ponder what the other person said, and perhaps go on a fact-finding mission. It’s easy to jump to conclusions when we don’t have all the facts. Holding our tongues, and our opinions, for a while often gives us time to assess the situation clearly before pronouncing judgment. I have found that many times what I was going to say was not in the end what I wanted to express. Giving thoughts time to settle and soak in Scripture is a wonderful habit that will keep us from answering too soon and looking foolish.
So pause. Gather the facts. Think before you answer, and don’t speak too soon.
Father, I want to reflect Your love and grace each time I open my mouth to speak. Help me to slow my tongue before I say something hurtful that can have lasting consequences. And when I fall short, help me be quick to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 13:3, "The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." (HCSB)
Proverbs 10:19, "When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise." (HCSB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What are one or two things you can say or do the next time you find yourself going down the slippery slope of speaking too much?
Choose one of the Scripture verses in today’s devotion and work to memorize it. When a growth opportunity comes along, recite it to yourself, and commit to let God’s Word take you along the right path.