“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” Psalm 34:13
My brother used to teach his children to avoid offensive words by saying; “Don’t say bad words.” They would often chuckle, while quickly offering the verbal response, “bad words” to his prompt. Our “bad words” can cause great damage. That is why God instructs us to “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” Psalm 34:13. I remember it clearly. This event happened 30 years ago, but still is clear in my mind. Unfortunately, it is one of my life actions that I wish I could take back and redo.
IIt was a Saturday morning and I was participating in a basketball recreation event. We had done our drills and had been split up into teams and our coaches had gathered us for instructions before the opening tip. As we gathered, we were discussing who each person was going to guard as we looked through our huddle to the opponents at the other end of the floor. With words that I wished I had never spoken I blurted, “I’ll guard that Sam (name changed), the one that is the real jerk. The magnitude of my harsh words didn’t actually affect me until after we had broke the huddle and one of my teammates said “Hey, don’t you know that our coach is Sam’s dad?” The impact of my evil words on that Saturday morning left me feeling terrible. I wished I had never said them. I don’t really recall many of the countless games that I must have played on Saturday mornings, but this moment of speaking evil has traveled with me. Unfortunately, there have been other times when I have spoken things that I shouldn’t have, but this incident has helped me understand how hurtful words can be.
What an influence our tongue can have; for good or for bad. Have you heard the expression “It takes at least 10 positive comments to combat 1 negative statement?” In my case, athletics and competition can be the spark which causes my tongue and apparently my brain to lose focus on its mission to represent Christ. I should be encouraging and building others up; speaking the truth in love. It takes effort to keep the tongue from running wild. For those who witness athletic events, and specifically, the other fans at the event, you know that competition can sometimes bring harsh and evil things from our tongues. We can quickly say things like, “Elbow him right back,” or “Hey, ump, you are as blind as a bat! You Stink!” And we can even engage the other spectators with words that are less than endearing. The power of the tongue is great, and our Life from the Word verse applies to all of us and should be a guideline for our speech. Athletics is just one venue where the inability to control the tongue can trash our witness. Do you have a specific arena where you are tempted to use words that can cause more harm than good? I shared in a sermon recently that all lives are beautifully created by God. This may not be your initial thought of the person that you want to direct “bad words” at, but slowing the tongue can keep you from speaking things that you might regret. This includes the referee that is missing calls (in your opinion) in your child’s game, your perceived opponent, and/or the person who is irritating you.
I pray that many of us will spend some time meditating upon Psalm 34:13 and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us to pause before we speak and react with evil and malicious words. Our selection of what comes out of our mouth is a reflection of what is in our hearts. May our words be: increasingly filled with praise to our Loving God, encouraging words to those that we interact with, and appropriately chosen words to those whom we disagree with or are angry with. May we be known as people who speak the truth in love. Our words are a witness.