Guarding Our Words
by Laura Bailey
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.” Psalm 141:3-4 NIV
Recently my mother “gifted” me with a slew of keepsakes from my childhood: trophies, cards, papers, pictures. Eager to dive into their mom’s past, my girls spent the afternoon with me rummaging through the boxes. Holding a plastic trophy, my eldest daughter, squinting at the label, “most outspoken award.” “Mom, what does outspoken mean?” Cringing, I began to explain, someone outspoken tends to give opinions without thinking about how they might affect other people’s views. My middle daughter piped up, “Oh, yeah, that describes you perfectly.” Ouch.
In my teens, I wore my brashness as a badge of honor. I said whatever I wanted to whoever I wanted. I didn't care whether it was received well or not. That was not my problem. My classmates nominated me for the reward, and the day I received it, I swelled with pride.
It had been almost twenty years since I’d received that award, but it is an ongoing struggle to tame my tongue, as my daughter pointed out. For years I blamed my lack of self-control and brashness on my temperament. My personality is bold and my words blunt. I excused my frankness by claiming clarity and honesty. In hindsight, I realized I cared more about my opinions and having my voice heard than I cared about others.
James 3:5 tells us, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Unfortunately, my words have set fire to relationships over the years, leaving nothing but ashes. Our words, like a real fire, burn everything in their path. Eventually, the flames are extinguished, but the damage and scars are beyond repair.
I began to study the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit started to convict me when I started to let my words run wild. Thankfully as I matured in my relationship with Christ, I realized that my words carry tremendous weight. I came across Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Yes! That’s exactly what I need—a guard over my mouth. Maybe even a lock and key option?
Psalm 141 gives us a glimpse into the heart of David. He cries out to God, confessing his wicked ways and sinful desires and asking that God redeem and rescue him from his sin. David knew that the product of his words was what was in his heart. He didn’t just ask the Lord to guard his speech, but his heart as well.
For some of us, watching our words proves impossible. But, I’ve learned to prevent potential heartache by pausing before I speak. It seems trite, but it’s necessary to help us guard our hearts and keep a diligent hold on our speech. I like to take a minute to think through my response. Will my words bring hurt or harm? Or will they encourage and edify?
We have choices in how we use our words. Fire can be deadly and destructive. But it can bring warmth and sustenance. Let us be people who keep a close watch on our tongues, renewing our hearts and minds daily, as we seek to be life-giving in all we say and do.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Has there ever been a time you wish you could take back your words? Do you struggle to pause before speaking? Pray that the Lord will help you practice patience and self-control, giving you discernment and guidance in your speech.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/lorenzoantonucci
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