Guard Your Mouth!
IT CAN be as sharp and destructive as a weapon of war. But it can also be as sweet as honey and as soothing as balm. It can bring about life, and it can bring about death. Thus the Bible describes the faculty of human speech.—Proverbs 12:18; 16:24; 18:21.
No wonder, then, that Solomon said: “The one guarding his mouth is keeping his soul. The one opening wide his lips—he will have ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3) A ruined reputation, hurt feelings, strained relations, and even physical harm—all of these are the possible results of foolish speech. Doubtless, though, you are one who wants to ‘keep his soul.’ How can you learn to guard your mouth and avoid potential ruin?
“In the Abundance of Words . . . ”
One simple way is not to talk too much! Perhaps you have been around a man or a woman who seems to have something to say on every matter. How irritating such a person can be! “The mouth of the stupid ones bubbles forth with foolishness,” and “the foolish one speaks many words,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 15:2; Ecclesiastes 10:14) Of course, this does not mean that every talkative person is a fool or that everyone who speaks little is wise. But it is dangerous to talk incessantly. Proverbs 10:19 puts it this way: “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.”
Meditate Before Answering
Another way to guard your mouth is to think before you speak. When no forethought is given to what is being said, both the speaker and his listeners can be hurt. The inspired writer declares: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.”—Proverbs 12:18.
Indicating just how bad thoughtless speech can be, the Bible book of James states: “How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire! Well, the tongue is a fire. The tongue is constituted a world of unrighteousness among our members, for it spots up all the body and sets the wheel of natural life aflame and it is set aflame by Gehenna.”—James 3:5, 6.
Gehenna draws its name from the Valley of Hinnom situated to the south and southwest of Jerusalem. At times in Israel’s history, fires continually burned there to consume the city’s refuse, making Gehenna a fitting symbol of total destruction. How, though, could an unbridled tongue be “set aflame by Gehenna?” A person who speaks lies, promotes God-dishonoring teachings, or otherwise misuses the tongue can cause both himself and others to lose God’s favor. The result? Eternal destruction! For example, Jesus Christ told the Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves.”—Matthew 23:15.
The Bible therefore gives us this practical advice: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.” (Proverbs 15:28) It is much better to think about what you are going to say, rather than blurt out something that may well do harm!
“A Word at Its Right Time”
Speaking at the right time is yet another way to guard your mouth. Observed Solomon: “For everything there is an appointed time . . . a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) When your mate seems exhausted from a long day of secular work or domestic chores, is that necessarily the time to burden him or her with minor problems or demands? Perhaps this is the “time to keep quiet.”
On the other hand, there is “a time to speak.” We read at Proverbs 15:23: “A word at its right time is O how good!” Do you know someone who is weighed down with problems and troubles? Might not a well-timed word of encouragement be just what that person needs?
Jesus Christ never failed to seize an opportunity to encourage others. Once he told his disciples: “Come, you yourselves, privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.” The account adds: “So off they went in the boat for a lonely place to themselves. But people saw them going and many got to know it, and from all the cities they ran there together on foot and got ahead of them.” From the vantage point of the crowds, this surely seemed the right time for words of comfort! From the perspective of Jesus and his disciples, however, the timing seemed less than advantageous. “Well, on getting out [of the boat], he saw a great crowd, but he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:31-34) Yes, Jesus guarded his mouth. He knew when to speak and when to be silent.—Compare Matthew 26:63; 27:12-14.
You, too, can learn to guard your mouth. Make a personal effort to avoid talking too much. Avoid thoughtless speech that can hurt your reputation and that of others. And watch for opportunities to share with others a beneficial “word at its right time.” Doing so will help you ‘keep your soul.’—Proverbs 13:3.
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Do you tend to interrupt others or to say something on every subject?