Think Before You Speak
You can change your world by changing your words. Scripture says “life and death” are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). The ancient dramatist and playwright, William Shakespeare was speaking about a woman who had both outer beauty and inner beauty when he stated, “She that was ever fair and never proud, had tongue at will and yet was never loud.” That same Shakespeare warned others to, “give thy thoughts no tongue.” Some good advice! I know this from experience. The times that I learned to hold my tongue and attitude I have had a much better outcome.
A Bible teacher I heard once said, “It was only five words that cost Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) 40 weeks of silence (Luke 1)!” I can personally certainly relate to the father of John. There have been times when I have said one foolish sentence to my wife and paid for it for days! Our spouse’s need our grace, not our gripes. It is vital to the health and growth of our marriages that we learn to think before we speak.
Solomon had an incredible understanding heart that God had given him. He had begged God for a discerning heart and the Lord gave him his desire. When you go through the book of Proverbs carefully, you sense that this man had a God-given wisdom about relationships.
I think you would agree with me that life can sure throw us some curve balls. Many start out with high hopes in marriage and home, but things don’t always turn out like we hoped, prayed and dreamed they would. Health, financial or worst of all, relationship issues mess up life’s journey. Solomon knew about all of these things and more. In this verse, He opens up and shares about the heartache of a wayward son or daughter but also about the devastation of having a sour mate.
What we are speaking of in this chapter is totally preventable. We can all change our tongue and our attitudes. There is just no place for constant criticism, nit-picking and grumbling in a marriage. An irritable wife or husband is torture. The Bible states that it actually feels like hearing a constantly dripping faucet! While the context of Proverbs 19:13 is about a wife, and while it does seem to be true that nagging is the besetting sin of women more often than men, men have an equal challenge with taming the tongue. As we apply this Scripture, we can certainly do so to both a wife and husband. As the old saying goes, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
I want to make a plea. Let’s do what we can to fill our homes with the spirit of joy! Life is just too short, my precious friend, to be unkind. I can’t imagine the pain of living with constant nagging, criticism and with no peace in the home. This kind of a life is nothing short of verbal abuse. If there is not much money in the pot, we can make it. If health is not the best, I think we can live with that but can we live with this constant dripping? No…we cannot possibly endure this for too long.
Notice, first the constant dripping. I am not talking about a fire hose or a volcano that blows up and then there is peace. We are talking about this constant drip, drip, drip, drip, peck, peck, peck…a consistent crabbiness, an irritable disposition. Every day, every hour of the day, they find some reason to make themselves and others around them upset. They are cranky and touchy. The Bible says that an irritable mate is as exasperating as trying to sleep with something dripping in the corner of your room.
Secondly, notice the wonderful gift that a pleasant mate is, as though it were from the very hands of God! Sometimes we imagine that by hounding our mate about their shortcomings we will get the matter resolved, but it is not very likely. A wife needs room for God to work on her. A husband needs room for God to speak. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t communicate and talk through legitimate concerns. Legitimate matters should certainly be talked about, that is only right and just. “Stuffing” your feelings or opinions doesn’t do anything but create resentment. I am a firm believer in open communication. That being said, I think the sense that I get from this verse is that it is more style than substance that makes the difference. That is, God is concerned more about the way we go about clarifying issues than our points of contention themselves.
Before I move on to some practical key points, let me share an encouraging thought about Proverbs 19:14 “…a prudent wife is from the LORD.” I know there are some who feel like they got a raw deal in marriage and that they don’t have a mate that is from God. This leaves them feeling hopeless and as though they are destined to a life of dissatisfaction – but that is NOT what this verse is saying. What God really is stating here is that it is God who will create virtue in our mate, as we pray and obey.God creates the kindness in them, not us by our nagging. It is God that creates beauty in a relationship – God does it all! A prudent husband or wife is from the Lord. The reason I know that God changes things is because nobody is a completed project the day they get married. The mate that you married was not complete and God is constantly working on them. Thank God that a virtuous husband and a virtuous wife are from the Lord.
What Are Characteristics of Negative Speaking?
#1. Repeatedly Hearing Derogatory Comments
It could be about my gender, that is, constantly criticizing me as a man or woman in general. Or perhaps a person’s physical characteristics, like making belittling comments about the way we look or our mental characteristics.
#2. Insulting of Ideas
There are a lot of dreams, goals and concepts that one may want to share, but they get put down. They hear that it’s dumb or stupid. Or perhaps when different viewpoints are shared that are not right or wrong, but are things that the mate doesn’t especially like, they speak out.
#3. Using Harsh and Foul Language
There is simply never a need for foul language. Constant harshness destroys the spirit of a woman and emasculates a man. An example of this would be changing normal requests into something that is foul. For example, a husband who says, “When is the [expletive]dinner going to be ready?” There is never a need for that kind of speaking.
According to Kellie Holly of Healthy Place, verbal abuse is associated with a host of physical side effects including chronic pain, headaches, stammering, ulcers, spastic colons, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, stress related heart conditions, sleeping disorders, eating problems, alcohol and drug abuse and even suicide. There is no telling of how many people have committed suicide as a result of verbal abuse. People of all ages kill themselves as a result of bullying. Those who suffer from verbal abuse show the same symptoms as someone who has PTSD. Someone who has been in an abusive relationship is like having served a couple of tours in battle! How terrible! Sometimes in a store I will hear a mother or father speak profanely to a child. I can only wonder if their home is like a war zone day after day.
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if we could just learn to refrain our lips? Self-restraint is not censorship – it is wisdom! I love that phrase “refrain.” We live in a society today where nobody wants to restrain himself or herself from anything. Take the internet for example. It is terrible the cowardly and unkind way that people speak to and about others on social sites or blog spots today. Too many hide behind anonymity of the electronic age. Our society doesn’t want to refrain themselves about expressing anything.
It was his first day on the job for a young man as a new clerk in the produce department of a supermarket. A lady came up to him and said she wanted to buy half of a head of lettuce. He tried to sway her from that goal but she persisted, finally he said, “Okay I will go back and talk to the manager.” He went to the rear of the store to talk to the manager but didn’t notice that the woman was walking right behind him. When he got to the back of the store he sneered, “There is some stupid old bag out there who wants to buy half of a head of lettuce, what should I tell her?” Seeing the horrified look on the face of the manager, he turned and saw the woman and said, “And this lady would like to buy the other half, would that be alright?” Relieved, the manager said, “That is fine.” Later in the day he congratulated this boy on his quick thinking. He queried, “Where are you from, son?” He replied proudly, “I am from Toronto, Canada, the home of beautiful hockey players and ugly women.” The manager looked at him and said sternly, “My wife is from Toronto!” Backtracking he said, “Oh, what team does she play for?” Ha!