“Shut mouth catch no fly!” is what we say in the Caribbean to indicate the merits of knowing when to keep silent.
Perhaps more than any other century, the 21st is characterized by talk. Turn on the computer, television, phone, radio, GPS–talk is the order of the day.
It’s the age of TMI, oversharing, putting your mess out there, dialogue diarrhea. We lurves us some talk!
And it’s not limited to the media: individual interactions can often turn into monologues that leave the less chatty person scratching her head re: the chatter’s oblivion to how wearying his words are.
Thing is, it’s kinda working against us. We’re so busy talking that we’re not listening, especially to what comes out of our mouths, and we don’t even realize when we’ve catapulted ourselves into Foot-in-Mouth Ville. Verbal vomit is mighty hard to clean up.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 18:21: “Words kill; words give life. They’re either poison or fruit–you choose.” (The Message)
God’s been teaching me tough lessons about shutting up when everything in me is locked and loaded to let loose verbally. Be careful what you ask God for help in conquering! Expect to enter the classroom and be schooled daily. The coursework is hard, but with this great a Teacher, what do you have to lose?
My relationship with God is evolving to the point where I can sense when the Holy Spirit is prompting me to not:
(a) grumble mentally;
(b) complain out loud to myself; or
(c) run tell dat.
I’m learning to listen up and obey. I definitely don’t get it right every time, but practice will eventually make perfect.
How best can we win the war of words?
- Choose life-giving words instead of death-bearing words. Do you want poison or fruit in your life? Convert potential negative words into either a neutral or a positive. And please, no false positives, as in flattery and fake praise.
- Communicate by listening, not only speaking. Make a covenant with yourself to listen as much as, or even more than, you speak. It’ll save you having to eat some words that probably won’t be very tasty.
- Confide in God if you have a problem with knowing when to shut up. It’s called prayer, people–simple conversation with God on the daily re: the stuff that’s up in your life.
- Corral your thoughts! Before stuff comes out of the mouth, it begins in the mind. We do have a say in what enters our minds and exits our mouths.
- Commit your words to God as a sacrifice. We will be called into account for every idle word we speak. Very sobering. Old Testament folks used to offer their best to God as an offering; think of verbal self-restraint as such an offering. But remember: If you don’t tie down a living sacrifice, it will get up off the altar!
As my girl Karen put it: “Your warfare is in your mouth!”