Psalm 141:1-3 (NIV): “O Lord, I call to You; Come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to You. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.”
It takes a great deal of effort for a person to establish a trusted representation of their word and deed. It generally takes a significant amount of time to build up credibility.
It’s amazing how quickly a careless phrase or an impatient cuss word can destroy that credibility.
I recently had this experience. As I was working several repair jobs, I saw at a distance another “repair job” developing before my eyes and yes… I swore. What’s worse, I was heard, plus my temper was lit.
I was blessed that the physical damage done hadn’t taken nearly the time and resources to repair as I had initially envisioned.
But oooh the damage I had done with my tongue and the rough actions that followed haunt me even now a full week later.
Are you familiar with Matthew 12:36-37? “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of Judgement for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
But my remorse is more immediate. My life is about relationships, a community of relationships. There’s a level of expectations, a standard of conduct within every relationship regardless of the level of intimacy or length.
Have you heard this quote before? “Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.”
In the early days of my Christian walk I had mentioned to Captain Watson (my mentor) that I was really struggling with my vocabulary, especially as a new Christian.
Naturally he asked me to elaborate. Basically what I remember saying is: “My native language is swearing. Since I’ve received Salvation, I’ve become bilingual, swearing sprinkled with English and it’s a problem.
So he shared this illustration with me:
A young man came to his pastor and told him, “I need forgiveness, truly I don’t know what I need. I got angry and said many things I regret saying in the hearing of others. What should I do?”
The pastor said, “Here is a small bag of feathers. Tonight place one feather upon the porch of everyone you know was there. Then in the morning come right back here. Then I’ll give you the next step.”
So, the next morning, first thing the young man was right back at the pastor’s office. “Here I am, now what?”
Pastor asked, “Did you follow instructions?”
“Yes sir, everyone I knew was there got a feather on their porch.”
“OK, here’s an empty bag. Now go back and collect each of those feathers.”
“Pastor, with the wind from last night you know I can’t do that.”
The pastor’s reply, “Neither can you take back those words you’ve spoken. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Better to set a guard upon your lips.”
So I’m not sure which of these next two proverbs sting the most.
Proverbs 18:19 – “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress.”
Proverbs 18:21 – “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
In James Chapter 3 the Bible talks about the tongue being like the rudder of a ship. It steers a person’s life in the same way no matter the circumstances.
What I’ve been remembering is what that captain told me that day. “Keep your words sweet; you never know when you might have to eat them.”
What I tell myself constantly: “Every day is tricky, some days are trickier than others.”
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