I’m not going to pretend that I am an expert on this subject matter because I am in complete control of my tongue. Those who know who I was and who I’m trying hard to avoid turning back into was VERY VERY loose and harsh with words. I wrote an article On Words a few months ago in which I discussed how I used words to break people down instead of building them up.
A lot has been said about saying stuff, but the irony is that this remains as a topic that needs to be discussed and emphasized again and again. The reason is simple, people still haven’t learned how to rein their tongues in.
God seems to think so, too, since the Scripture says a lot about how to use our words wisely.
18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.
Disclaimer: As I discussed during our Theology last Sunday, proverbs are not meant to be read as an entire passage. Instead, they have to be understood as stand alone verses. That still stands. This is just one of the rare occurrences that 4 consecutive passages talk about the same theme.
Before we begin speaking, there are a few questions we need to ask ourselves.
1. Why do I need to say this?
What is the true motivation behind your need to speak? Proverbs 10:18 says that if you keep hatred within you, speaking lies is not a long way off. This proverb is true. When you hate someone, it’s very easy to say something bad about them. So, the safe thing to do is to stop before speaking and look deep in your heart to see if you hate the person you’re talking to or talking about.
The second line of the verse talks about how a person who spreads slander is a fool. There are two words that we need to define to properly grasp what this means. First, what is slander? The Hebrew word for this is dibbah which means whispering, defamation, or evil report. Saying something that would blacken another’s reputation is considered as dibbah. And anyone who does that is a fool or kesiyl. A fool isn’t just someone stupid, a fool is someone arrogant enough not to follow God’s will. This makes sense since it’s never God’s will for us to speak something to ruin another’s reputation.
So, if you’re not entirely sure that your motive is spotless, don’t speak.
2. Who am I speaking to?
I’m a firm believer that the whole “Be yourself” thing is contrary to God’s design. If everyone is to be themselves given our sinful nature, then we can all expect the world to go down in flames. We have to be better versions of ourselves. My freedom of expression is limited by what would offend my audience. That’s just for normal day-to-day conversations. Don’t even get me started on speaking behind the pulpit. That would set the bar even higher.
The message should be tailor-made to the recipient and not the receiver. We can’t always expect that the receivers will understand the intention behind our message if we don’t consider them when we construct it. A four-year old will not understand things the same way a 40-year old could.
We should always consider our hearers before opening our mouths. And if there is even the slightest risk that we are going to hurt someone or cause someone to misunderstand, don’t speak.
3. What should I say?
Those two questions have to be considered even before we start constructing the message. And the basic guideline on what to say is clearly stated in Ephesians 4:29.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The entire message should be edifying to the hearers. It should build them up instead of break them down. So, when constructing the message, keep this in mind. If there is even one unwholesome word that may hurt or offend, don’t speak.
Another quick advice is to keep it short. As Proverbs 10:19 says, when there are many words, making a mistake is unavoidable.
4. When should I say it?
Timing is very important. Even if you have a clean motive and a carefully constructed speech, if you say it at the wrong time or setting, it can be completely inappropriate. You have to wait for the prompting of the Holy Spirit (and be absolutely sure that it’s the Holy Spirit and not your own emotions speaking) before you start speaking.
5. How should I say it?
With my experience as a script writer and director, I can tell you with authority that what’s written on paper can mean something totally different depending on how you say it. Everything counts. You need to watch out for your talking speed, volume, your gestures, the pauses. Everything should convey the true meaning of the message. Even something as simple as “Hello” can mean differently depending on how you say it. If you’re speaking out of love, make sure that you say it with love and not out of anger. Because if you do, it will ruin the entire thing.
I’m a very talkative person. Speaking and teaching has always been my passion. And my mouth got me into a lot of trouble in the past. That’s the reason why this article means so much more to me.
I wish I set up these guidelines way back in the past. That could have saved me a lot of trouble and heartbreak. That’s the reason why I’m sharing this with all of you.
So, before you start speaking,
Check your motive.
Know your hearer.
Save your words.
Wait for the right timing.
Say it right.
And that’s my two cents on that.