By Dr. Rick Warren
If you are like most people, various studies of human behavior indicate that:
The average man, research has determined, speaks 20,000 words a day. The average woman, the same studies show, speaks 30,000 words in an average day. (Maybe this explains why some husbands have nothing to say when they get home at night, while their wives are eager to converse: The husband might have already used up his daily allotment of 20,000 words at work; his wife might have utilized the same number of spoken words, but she still has a 10,000-word surplus!)
We have become a world of talkers. Talk is everywhere. We have talk radio, TV talk shows, car phones and cell phones. It seems like everyone has something to say. The problem is this: The more you talk, the greater the likelihood that your mouth will get you into trouble!
Here are four simple suggestions for management of the mouth that we find presented the Bible:
THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!
Pause and put your mind in gear – think – before opening your mouth. “Intelligent people think before they speak. What they say is then more persuasive” (Proverbs 16:23). “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say” (Proverbs 18:20).
ALWAYS SPEAK THE TRUTH.
We often hold back the truth to avoid conflict. We don’t want to rock the boat. But eventually, that makes things worse. Dishonesty destroys relationships. “Someone who holds back the truth causes trouble” (Proverbs10:20).
A true friend will be straight-forward with you, speaking in honesty. “An honest answer is the sign of a true friendship” (Proverbs 24:26). “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery” (Proverbs 28:23).
SPEAK THE TRUTH WITH LOVE.
This is the filter for the second point. Never use truth as a weapon to batter people. Our goal should be to correct and, ultimately, to help them. “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as a sword, but wisely spoken words can heal” (Proverbs 12:18). “A word of encouragement does wonders!” (Proverbs 12:25).
ASK GOD FOR HELP IN MANAGING YOUR MOUTH.
I love the Living Bible translation of Psalm 141:3. It expresses the sentiment simply, and bluntly: “Help me Lord, to keep my mouth shut!”
We would do well to pay attention to the admonition of Ephesians 4:29:
“Do not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
© 2011, Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved. Adapted from a column by Dr. Rick Warren, the author of numerous books, including the highly acclaimed, The Purpose-Drive Life, which has been translated into many languages and sold throughout the world. It affirms the importance of having a carefully considered, clearly expressed purpose to guide everyday life. It has been named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He also has written The Purpose-Driven Church.
1. Dr. Warren talks about “management of the mouth,” controlling what we say. Can you think of instances recently when people failed to do this – perhaps yourself – with unfortunate consequences?
2. Why do you think we have a tendency to speak our mind before we have fully considered the impact of what we are about to say?
3. Do you agree with the suggestion to “always speak the truth”? Why or why not? Can you think of times when speaking truthfully might not be the best course of action?
4. How do you understand the admonition to “speak the truth in love”? Is this easy for you to do? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible, consider these other passages that relate to this topic:
Proverbs 4:24, 10:19-21, 10:32, 11:12, 12:14, 13:3, 14:3, 15:1-2; James 3:1-12