Do you like to talk? I tend to think of myself as a fairly quiet person, but my husband may feel otherwise! 🙂
Regardless, most of us use a bunch of words every day. Those who are closest to us often get the benefit (or detriment!) of many of them.
This came to mind on Monday as I was reading Proverbs 10. I’ve read it often, but this time I noticed how many verses in this one chapter deal with our speech. I figured this topic must be important if it got this much attention!
Whether it’s in marriage, parenting, or friendships, our words have power. I found a few principles in the verses below that can be helpful to us. I’ve not mastered these guidelines that I’m sharing, but I definitely want to do a better job at them!
1. Make sure that our words are refreshing and lifegiving.
Verse 11: The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
We want people to feel better – not worse – after talking to us! I’m reminded of Proverbs 18:21 which tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue. The words we speak should energize and invigorate people. If someone comes to us down and discouraged, what we say can give them new energy and strength.
The opposite of this could be criticism or using words that wound. Sometimes if we’ve been offended, it’s natural to try to hurt the other person with our words. Or maybe we get frustrated with their behavior and are critical of our husband or one of our children. If we want to be that righteous man, we must choose to either keep quiet or speak kindly.
After a discouraging day at work, our husbands need us to use our words to build them back up. When our teenager’s missed out on an opportunity she really wanted to pursue or had a friendship breakup, she needs our words of support. She may not always act that way – and may even use her words to drive us away – but she needs us to continue to pursue and encourage her.
2. Speak words of wisdom.
Verse 13: In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
Speech that is discreet and prudent shows that we are wise. Here we need the Holy Spirit’s help so we can discern what to say at times. We want to be careful not to purposely offend with our speech, but to be tactful and considerate.
Verse 31 also fits in here. The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.
Just like the fruit tree brings forth fruit, so we can produce wise words as we learn to be “just” and walk with Christ. I’m also reminded of the Proverbs 31 woman who is described as opening her mouth with wisdom and having the law of kindness in her tongue. I would love to be described that way!!
3. Don’t talk negatively about other people.
Verse 18: He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.
At times I struggle with all of these, but this one may be the most difficult to abide by. When we find someone else who shares our less-than-favorable opinion about another person, it’s easy to just dissolve into tearing that person down. Maybe it’s all true…but it takes us back to that old saying, “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?”
Even more seriously, we don’t want to be guilty of passing on rumors or sharing false, damaging information about others. Let’s stop the gossip train before it gets started!
4. Recognize the value of silence.
Verse 19: In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
I was talking to another mom recently about a situation involving our kids that we were frustrated with. I think both of us felt like we should march up to the authority involved and address them about it. But then my friend saved the situation by saying, “I’ve never regretted what I didn’t say in these moments.” She was absolutely right. That advice can keep me from speaking hastily or harshly and later being sorry that I reacted that way.
Let’s listen more than we talk. Remember Proverbs 17:18? Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps quiet.
5. Choose words that are appropriate and applicable to the current situation.
Verse 20: The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
We’ve likely all been in situations where someone said just the right thing at just the right time and was a blessing to us. We may have also encountered people who ramble on and on (maybe about themselves) and what they said was of no benefit to anyone.
Verse 32 touches on this as well. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
It’s important, too, to leave the past in the past when dealing with our families. Don’t bring up that old argument with your husband or remind your child about how they failed the last time. Let’s stick to the present and speak in a way that helps us all move forward together.
Our words can be truth-centered, grace-filled, and honoring to the Lord as we seek His help to follow these principles.
- Don’t Be a Fool: Five Things to Avoid if You Want to Be Wise
- 10 Traits of a Wise Woman
- What Abigail Teaches Me About Discretion