Well, Shut My Mouth
Due to a technical failure, we were unable to get this blog to all of our subscribers last Wednesday. Many received a re-run of an earlier blog, "Worship of Self."
By Don Umphrey
(Biblical Citations from the NIV)
Author Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) posed the question as to what kind of person could be classified as a bore. Pondering this and displaying very little humility, I instantly thought that I could make a long list of such people and categorize them.
I had my comeuppance when I looked at Bierce’s answer: “A bore is someone who keeps on talking while I want him or her to listen.”
It’s been decades since I started thinking about speech ethics after someone recommended the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In short, this book describes the value of being attentive to other people and what they have to say.
I required my students to read Carnegie’s book while teaching Principles of Public Relations at Texas Tech University. The students were assigned to groups that made presentations to the rest of the class on aspects of the book.
I received a lot of positive feedback from the students on this assignment and even started hearing from their parents. Some 15 years later, I was in the parking lot of a book store in Dallas, Texas, and a man ran up to me who I recognized as a former student. With great enthusiasm he started spouting out principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People.
These same principles became entrenched with me. That’s good! But I judge others who have apparently never read this book by these standards. This has sometime led to disappointment for me.
For example, I made contact with a boyhood friend I hadn’t seen in years. We were on the phone together for a long time. Reflecting back on the conversation, I knew a lot what he’d been doing over the years but he knew no more about me than before the call. That’s because he dominated the conversation with first-person stories. I have had many such experiences.
A Potential Ministry
I have no regrets about my attempts to be a good listener. In fact, it is a discipline that may be ministry unto itself.
The Bible is full of advice about the words that come from our mouths, so rather than reading any more about my thoughts, let’s see what the Bible has to say.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
There are two broad choices.
1) Turn to God with our speech. “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
2) Let Satan use our speech. Quoting Jesus, Satan was “a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Words As Weapons
Doesn’t it make sense that the devil would tempt us to use our mouths as a weapon to maim or kill others in either in a figurative or literal sense?
Thinking of our words as a weapon to hurt others, the tongue “is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). Evil people “make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140:3).
Words may be used as a “club,” “sword” or “sharp arrow” (Proverbs 25:18) and “sharpened razor” (Psalm 52:2). The tongue has "the power over life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21). With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors…” (Proverbs 11:9). The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8).
“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).
“Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living” (Psalm 52:1-5)
“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth” (Proverbs 16:13).
“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver” (Proverbs 10:20.
“The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom” (Proverbs 10:31).
“You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!” (Psalm 52:1-4).
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:8-10).
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Copyright 2023 by Don Umphrey
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