Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23
I’ve always been opinionated. Sometimes this can be good….Or it might be more accurate to say it is sometimes convenient. When uncomfortable truths need to be spoken, my personality type is ever-ready and quick on the draw. I’m not someone you’d consider to be slow to speak.
This became increasingly apparent to me while observing several little versions of myself running around for eight weeks straight during quarantine.
I heard my children interrupting one another, myself, or others, and I groaned inwardly. Some of this no doubt is just them being children. However, a good deal of it is probably also something they inherited from me. Or more accurately, from watching me.
I’ve tirelessly tried to tell them: “Open your ears first, then your mouth.” But the problem is, I don’t always embody this and heed to my own advice.
If you’re striving as I am to be a woman of God, it’s easy to find scripture that instructs us to listen more than we speak. And like it or not, we are held accountable for what we say, whether we are in a position of leadership, or hugely responsible with shaping and molding young hearts to follow Christ.
Imagine how many conflicts would never materialize if we would just listen and understand a person’s concern or complaint. What would happen if we waited to respond to someone until we prayed, asked clarifying questions, and gave thought to someone’s criticism? What if, when we responded, we spoke with patience, grace, honesty, and clarity?
James tells us we should be swift to listen, but we also should be slow to speak and slow to get angry. How many times have you blurted out something, only to regret it the moment you said it? I’m ashamed to say I am often so. very. guilty. There’s nothing biblical about our mouths moving faster than our brains.
Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37). It’s far too easy to rationalize our outbursts of anger in our sinful reasoning. But Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”
In our world that tends to rage-post on social media, there’s not much time to think, just to react. I want to encourage you to think twice before you respond, whether on social media or in person. Here are three encouragements for you in times of frustration or tension: listen, wait, respond.
Anyone will listen when they respect the speaker and place greater significance on them than they do on themselves. When we respect someone, we naturally want to hear what they have to say. Philippians 2:3 says when we show signs of humility, we value others above ourselves. Listening to understand someone before we respond is a sign that we’re not trying to be “wise in our own eyes,” but rather trying to grow in grace.
Paul, in I Corinthians 13:4, teaches us that true love is patient. Waiting before we respond to a concern or a complaint (and being slow to speak) is often a way God calls us to love others—even if they don’t expect or want us to.
A lot of times our initial impulse is wrong, especially when the criticism is about us. We don’t like feeling attacked, judged, or confronted. However, if we take the advice from Proverbs 10:19, we will hold back. This verse instructs us to prudently restrain our lips. To be prudent means to
act with or show care and thought for the future. When we’re frustrated, we should think more about our future relationship with someone than our initial feeling in the moment. That concern for the future can direct our current conversations.
A beautiful portrayal of gracious words is found in Proverbs 16:24. When we speak, our words should lift up others around us and give life. Now, does this mean that I believe that speaking gracefully means we shouldn’t ever have a conflict with anyone? Of course not. At times we need to be real with those around us. We need to speak the truth in love to our friends. However, our responses should always be measured, clear, honest, and aimed toward relationship restoration and agreement.
I believe it would benefit us ALL if we could learn to be more comfortable in the silence. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there’s a time to be silent and a time to speak. Let’s discipline ourselves to resist the urge to fill every moment with noise. It’s more than okay for a moment to remain silent. And an added bonus; If I want my children to learn prudency, good listening skills, and slowness of speech, I MUST be the blueprint of those things for them.
Mama friend, be very real with yourself for just a minute and ask yourself these questions: Do I want my children to hear me pop off at their Daddy (or anyone for that matter)? Do I want them to witness me speaking negatively about someone? Would I want them to read an angry or frustrated comment I’ve made on social media to someone I consider a friend?
Not only are our children watching our behavior, they are also modeling it. That truth alone is enough to make me wanna hush my big mouth up and think long and hard before I speak.
I’ve got eight little eyes constantly watching me; looking to me, watching how I live. What are they absorbing that they observe me cosign as acceptable behavior? While there’s certainly no perfect parent, we can strive to be more Christ-like in our actions and words by pausing, thinking, and being much much more cautious and careful with our words.
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19