The Lord knew the potential that communication has when it is understood.  “The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other’” (Genesis 11:6-7). 

The Lord wanted to stop the men from constructing the city and tower of Babel, so He made communication impossible for them by confusing their spoken language.  The men were not able to communicate their plans or understand one another and the work ceased.  The same thing can happen in a relationship when one or both parties are not willing to be slow to speak—allowing the other person to talk and be understood.

Be Respectful Not Regretful

Think twice before you speak, and then you may be able to say something more insulting than if you spoke right out at once.
— Evan Esar (1899 - 1995),
Esar's Comic Dictionary 

If there is one good reason to be slow to speak, it would be so that something isn’t said that would later be regretted.  How many times have you spoken “off the cuff,” wishing you could take it back?  In this day and age where almost everyone around you has immediate access to a recording device, whether it’s a digital camera, a PDA, or a cell phone, your action and your words can be recorded and sent throughout the world in just minutes.  (Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law, or more importantly on a Web site.)

We read or hear about people every day who have made statements that they later regret or are called upon to explain—politicians, radio hosts, comedians, athletes, television personalities, etc.

“The godly think before speaking; the wicked spout evil words.”
— Proverbs 15:28

I am sometimes guilty of trying to be the guy with the quick wit, the funny comment or the one with the answer, but often I have fallen flat by an inappropriate comment or untimely remark.  In a close relationship, such comments can be magnified and can cause even greater harm and forever alter the bond that you have.

Whether it’s a loved one, a friend or just an acquaintance, we should all strive to show others respect (not regret) in our communication.  We can do this with words, but also in being slow to speak.

Solomon shares his wisdom about being slow to speak (in respect to God), “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.  As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. … Much dreaming and many words are meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3, 7).

When you are slow to speak, you are able to listen to others.

When you are slow to speak, you are better understood.

When you are slow to speak, you show respect and don’t often say things that you shouldn’t or will someday regret.

Let your words be few and your patience great.

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books).  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.

**This article first published on January 23, 2008.