Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Think before opening your mouth to offer an opinion. Think about the implications of what you are about to say. A word spoken in anger or without consideration of what you are committing to can leave you in a very awkward place. Your comments may put others in an awkward position.
Make sure every word is filled with grace. This means that your words should not deliver judgment or inflict damage to another person’s reputation, if at all possible. There are times when another person’s actions or words put them in a bad place and there is no way to protect them when truth is spoken. Be careful to speak the truth in love not in retaliation or out of anger.
The book of James speaks about the problems our tongues can bring to us. The words of James regarding the management of our words are worth repeating here.
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.“ James 3:1-12
How often I have said things only to later realize that I did not have a complete picture. Had I been slower to speak my words may have offered different counsel. There is wisdom in the proverb that says: “Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Prov. 10:14)
When our words are filled with grace rather than throwing salt on a wound or accusing or gossip, we have the opportunity to build reputations as men who respect others and build others up. The world around us is driven by bad news and casting doubt on people’s intentions. Quite often these negative tones come from self promotion by minimizing the efforts of the next person. We should be men of integrity and not stoop to the standards of this world. No one know the intentions of a man’s heart but he and God. All we can see is what is on the outside. Let us not judge men by the outward appearance. If God loves each one of us, so then, should we demonstrate love for each other. Our speech should be the first place we show that love. Actions need to follow, but let your speech be filled with generosity, kindness and understanding. Think about how a few reckless words will impact the next person and very likely harm your reputation.