When I was in elementary school, my younger sister had a classmate that was having health problems. One day on the way home from school I could tell that she was upset and I blurted out in a hurtful and sarcastic tone, “Why are you so upset? Did your friend die or something!?”. She instantly broke into tears and ran into the house to go hide from me.
That day created a huge gap in our sibling relationship that has taken over a decade to repair.
I failed with my mouth then, and I’ll will be just as quick to admit that I have had many “mouth fails” in my life so far. Too many to count, and the number keeps ticking up like my odometer in my car.
The truth is that everyone who has a mouth fails, some just fail more often than others. The important thing is to recognize how our mouths get us in trouble so that we can concentrate on using our mouths the right way. This is what this blog post is all about.
Three ways our mouth get us in trouble
- Speaking without thinking
Scripture says that we need to be careful how we speak.
In the Bible, Peter gives us a few examples of speaking without thinking. (Luke 9:28-36, Matthew 16:21:23, John 13:4-9). In these three examples, each time he spoke without thinking he got a quick response which showed him that his words were foolish.
Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet. After Job had a lot of bad things happen to him, his friends grieved and said nothing for a while. That is really the best thing they could have done in that situation. But then they broke their silence and started talking about things they didn’t know about and caused some trouble.
Silence can be awkward, but awkwardness is better than blurting out words that later you wish you could take back.
Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19 GNT
Sometimes when we get angry we blurt out things without thinking them through and say things that hurt people. This is because communication is so much more than just the words that we use. It also includes non-verbals such as tone and body language.
- Underestimating the power of your tongue
Our words are powerful. Yale did a study and found the 12 most powerful/persuasive words. They are; You, Money, Save, New, Results, Easy, Health, Safety, Love, Discovery, Proven, Guarantee.
It’s funny to me, but not surprising, how many of those words show up in advertisements. Of course marketers and salesman would use powerful words to get you to buy whatever it is that they’re selling.
“Words Are, of Course, the Most Powerful Drug Used By Mankind” – Rudyard Kipling (author of Jungle Book)
Words powerfully shape how a person thinks and feels. Just like a drug. Yes, negatively. But also positively.
A lot of people underestimate the power of words and find themselves in a situation they wish they could change because of the words they used. It’s kind of like underestimating the power of the ocean and Getting Caught In a Rip Current. I’ve been there, done that, almost died, not fun.
What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words. Proverbs 18:21
Here’s part of what James had to say about mouths.
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
My friends, this can’t go on. -James 3:3-10 MSG
The mouth has the ability to give life or death, blessing or cursing, encouragement or discouragement, the list goes on… but all this shows that our mouth and the words we use have great power.
Think of Smokey the bear, “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES”. Well only you can prevent spreading fire from your mouth by concentrating on using it only for positive and not negative.
Some of us are the victim of negative words because of someone who was verbally abusive. Maybe they said over and over, “you’re not important, I wish you had never been born, you’ll never amount to anything, you’ll always been an addict, you’ll always be poor, you’ll always be overweight, you’ll always be THIS or you’ll always be THAT” whatever this or that is…
Then somewhere along the line you started believing those words and they dictated your future. Words used in an abusive fashion can do all sorts of damage. If that’s you, you need to come out of that. You can come out of that!
- Forgetting that I’m accountable for my words
- “words” includes texts, tweets, fb posts, etc..
“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben in Spider Man
Just like we are accountable for our actions when we use a weapon, or get behind the wheel of a car, we are also accountable for the words we use. With the great power that comes with our mouths comes great responsibility to how we use it.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Matthew 12:34b-36 NIV
Have you ever met a verbally explosive person? They say a lot of hurtful things without thinking, just to get it all out there to make themselves feel better temporarily. Then later they say “i didn’t mean it”.
News flash, they did mean it, because what comes out of the mouth first goes through the heart. Whatever words someone speaks is like a peak into their heart. Out of the mouth comes the issues of the heart.
If you want to improve the way you speak, improve the way you believe in your heart. The signs of a poorly managed mouth are the signs of a poorly managed heart.
Words of encouragement can go a long ways! Don’t be part of the problem by using your mouth in a negative way (even about yourself). Be part of the solution by lifting other people up and spreading positivity.
- Think before you speak, sometimes silence is the best
- Consider how powerful your words are
- Remember that you are accountable for the words you speak
For the next 30 days concentrate on using your mouth the right way and keep score. No swearing, no lying , no abusive talk, no belittling, no gossip, complaining, no nagging etc.
Keep a tally of all the negative words you use. Negative ten points (-10) for each negative word.
Keep a tally of all the positive words you use. For example, words of encouragement or affirmation. Each tally counts for +1, one not 10.
Was your final score positive or negative?
To watch the sermon related to this blog post go to foothillscc.org watch/listen page, look up “Mouth Fails” in the “Epic Fails Of The Bible” Series.