Have you ever said something and then wished you hadn’t said it?
The words come out and 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.
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.” Something pops into our minds, and 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 decided to fire off a quick email or text message.
You type the message and 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, and 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 by making 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 dishonest words, 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 someone up or bulldoze them.
There’s an old rhyme that says, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That is a bald-faced lie. Words can do great harm. They can wound deeply and do lifelong damage in a matter of seconds.
Words like “You are stupid,” “I’m so disappointed in you” or “Maybe we should just be friends” can reverberate for decades.
But words also have tremendous power for good. “Great job!” “That’s the best spaghetti I’ve ever tasted” or “I couldn’t have done it without you” cause all kinds of wonderful after-effects: smiles, joy, hope, strength, courage and more.
Your words can give direction to the lost, encouragement to the broken or hope to the desperate.
Words have tremendous power – for harm or for good. So think before you speak. Run it through the Ephesians 4:29 filter by asking:
â— Is it wholesome?
â— Will it build others up?
â— 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 a day without grumbling, gossiping, bragging, exaggerating or engaging in reputation assassination, cruel humor or 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 spew out every word that presents itself to your mind. Weigh it before you say it.
Blake McKinney is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, Mo., and is the author of “Refresh: A Moment with God in the Middle of Your Day.” He and his wife, Gayla, write a marriage blog and you can follow him on Twitter @JBlakeMcKinney.