Think Before You Speak

Do you remember the old statement, “Make sure your brain is in gear before you engage your mouth”? That’s basically what God’s Word is saying.

So often we think, Uh-oh, I wish I hadn’t said that. I’d like to take it back. But once the words are spoken, it’s done. There’s no erase button, no rewind button. There’s no judge telling the jury to disregard that last comment. When you take the time to think before you speak, you can evaluate, edit and consider the impact of your words on the other person.

What would happen in a marriage if the following principles were consistently applied?

  • Careless words stab like a sword, but wise words bring healing (Prov. 12:18, NCV)
  • Patient people have great understanding, but people with quick tempers show their foolishness (Prov. 14:29, NCV)
  • Those who are careful about what they say keep themselves out of trouble (Prov. 21:23, NCV)
  • Do you see people who speak too quickly? There is more hope for a foolish person than for them (Prov. 29:20, NCV)

Speak the Truth

We live in a culture that believes it’s all right to lie. Today we call it “modifying” the truth.

What do we mean by this? To modify means to change. Thus, what is changed is no longer true but a lie. Isn’t it all right to lie if it means you can avoid unpleasantness in your relationship with a person? We can all think of situations in which we feel it would be best not to speak the truth for fear of hurting the other person. But does lying really avoid unpleasantness? A lie is usually discovered and then there is even more unpleasantness. Besides, who are we really afraid of hurting—the other person or ourselves? We have to be honest with ourselves about our motivation. Often, we find it easy to lie if we can ease out of an unpleasant situation.

Perhaps the most tempting opportunity to lie is when we’re confronted with something we’ve done. We feel like altering the truth or rationalizing it in order to push the blame away from ourselves. You can see this pattern starting in small children. When they are confronted with a wrong action, they find it so difficult to say, “Yes, I did it. I’m sorry. I accept the responsibility.” Have you ever noticed the other person’s reaction when you accept responsibility for your actions and are open and truthful? The person is amazed, even shocked!

Is it possible to tell the truth and yet hold back part of it because the other person is not ready for all the facts? Perhaps. But does holding back part of the information cause the person to think the opposite of what the truth actually is? That’s something to think about!

What happens when your wife walks in and asks, “How do you like my new dress? How does it look on me?” Often a husband will say, “Fine,” even though he doesn’t like the dress and it doesn’t look good on his wife. Let’s hope the wife was being truthful in asking the question! Was she looking for an answer to her question or was she wanting her ego built up? We also can be deceitful by the questions we ask! In this situation it would be better if the husband honestly shared his feelings. Marriage is built on trust, and there can be no trust unless there is truthfulness. Answering a question like this, as well as hundreds of others in marriage, requires tact! “I think I’ve seen you in other dresses I like better” is a much better response than “Huh! It sure shows off your weight!”

Scripture gives us a pattern to follow regarding modification of the truth. Read and discuss Proverbs 6:16-19; 12:17; 28:23; Ephesians 4:15,25; and Colossians 3:9.

Notice Ephesians 4:15, which exhorts us to speak the truth in love. The words “in love” could imply tact! Be concerned about how you speak the truth. Be sensitive to the other person and the ways in which you can make him receptive to words of truth. Do not rip the person apart and scar him emotionally by frank, honest words that carry a tinge of brutality! Truth must be accompanied by love, tact and deep concern for the other person. There is a close correlation between truth and trust in a relationship.

What Do You Think?

1. When is the most difficult time for you to share all that you believe or feel?
2. What could your spouse do to help you share more openly?


Notes
1. Sven Wahlroos, Family Communication (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 3.
2. Clifford Notarius and Howard Markman, We Can Work It Out (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993), p. 28, adapted.
3. Ibid., pp. 123, 124, adapted.

 

Excerpted by permission from Communication: The Key to Your Marriage by H. Norman Wright (Regal Books), p. 69-72.

Dr. H. Norman Wright is a graduate of Westmont College (B.A. Christian Education), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.R.E.), and Pepperdine University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology) and has received honorary doctorates D.D. and D.Litt. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and Biola University respectively. He has pioneered premarital counseling programs throughout the country. Dr. Wright is the author of over 65 books—including the best-selling Always Daddy’s Girl and Quiet Times for Couples. He and his wife, Joyce, have a married daughter, Sheryl, and a son, Matthew, who was profoundly retarded and is now deceased. The Wrights make their home in Southern California.