Have you ever said something and then wished you hadn’t said it? The words come out, and then you immediately wish you could reel them back in. But the thing about words is that you can’t unsay them. It is like pulling the trigger and then wishing the bullet back into the gun.
Since we spend so much time with our spouses, they tend to be the victims of many of our unwise words. Early in our marriage, Gayla made the effort to put on some perfume right before getting in bed one night. Instead of getting the signal that a romantic moment might be ahead, I sniffed and said, “What’s that smell!?” That wasn’t really the reaction she was going for! She was hurt, and I immediately regretted my insensitivity.
You probably wouldn’t have to reflect very long to remember something rude or hurtful that popped out of your mouth and into you spouse’s ears.
Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Most of us are gushers instead of weighers. Here’s how things normally work: something pops into our minds, and then it pops out of our mouths. The Bible challenges us to add a step to that process: when a thought pops into our minds, we should evaluate its possible impact. Before we say it, we should weigh it.
Perhaps you have had an experience where you decide to fire off a quick email or text message. You type the message, and you are about to click “send,” but then you think, “I better not. I need to think about this for a moment.” We should have the same discipline before we speak.
We need to install a filter between our minds and our mouths.
Ephesians 4:29 gives us some helpful criteria by which we should weigh what we are about to say: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The Scripture warns that unwholesome talk will try to sneak out of your mouth. It is your job to prevent it from exiting. God calls you to set up a security checkpoint at your lips. He wants you to do a thorough examination of each word before it is said. If there are words that would wound, they don’t get clearance to pass. If there are words that are dishonest, they have to stay behind. Anything that is unwholesome is unwelcome beyond the gate of your lips.
It is important to test our words before we speak them, because words have tremendous power. Words can be used to build your spouse up, or to bulldoze them.
Words can do great harm. There’s an old rhyme that says, “Sticks & stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” That is a bald-faced lie. Words can wound deeply, and do lifelong damage in matter of seconds. “You are stupid.” “I’m so disappointed in you.” “I don’t know why I married you.” Words like those can reverberate for decades.
But words also have tremendous power for good. “Great job!” “That’s the best spaghetti I’ve ever tasted.” “I couldn’t have done it without you.” Words like that leave your mouth, enter your spouse’s ears, echo around in their minds, and cause all kinds of wonderful after-effects: smiles, joy, hope, strength, courage, and more.
Words have tremendous power – for harm or for good. So think before you talk. Don’t just gush it out. Run it through the Ephesians 4:29 filter: Is it wholesome? Will it build others up? Will it benefit those who listen?
For some of us, our daily word count would decrease drastically.
And that’s ok. After all, a closed mouth gathers no foot.
Imagine day without grumbling, gossiping, bragging, exaggeration, reputation assassination, cruel humor, and pointless yammering. Imagine a day where all the negative words, and even the neutral words, are left out – and all that is left is encouraging, helpful communication. Imagine a day when the only words that are spoken are those that actually represent an improvement over silence!
Don’t just spew out every word that presents itself to your mind. Weigh it before you say it.