If you’ve been around a while (smile), you’ll remember a time when it was fashionable for people to be told to take off their masks and get real with each other. We were told to open up, confess, and be less inhibited. It was for the most part sound counsel as too many people with serious problems tried to go it alone because they were under the impression that’s what they were supposed to do. Gradually, an environment was created where people were encouraged to share their struggles and their lives with others.
You don’t hear much anymore about opening up or sharing what’s inside you with others. That’s because we’re w-a-a-a-y past that point. We live in a world where people say anything, write anything (read the comments posted after articles on the web), and listen to anything. We have talk radio, shock jocks, and television programming that major in speech which is rude, crude, and lewd.
We suffer from word inflation, an overabundance of uncontrolled words. Like too much currency in circulation, the effect of too much speech is that it lessens the value of everything we say. Talk has become cheap—it has been trivialized by too much texting, DMing, Twittering and the like. No generation in history has said more and conveyed less.
The book of Proverbs is part of what’s known as the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. I think its words about words are ripe with instruction for us.
When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise, (10:19),
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly, (15:2),
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint (17:27).
Nobody wants to go back to the way it was before, but a little balance would be nice. Children say anything to anyone; learning to use words discerningly is part of growing up. There are some things that we don’t need to say and others don’t need to hear (see John 16:12). The problem isn’t too much information—it’s not enough wisdom!
Years ago people were prodded to extend their boundaries of disclosure by being reminded that they would still be accepted and have the respect of others. Perhaps now we can encourage them to rein it in some by reminding them of another kind of respect—self-respect. Controlling our speech is a dimension of self-control. Without self-control there can be no such thing as self-respect (which is why people with addiction issues struggle so much in this area). People who think through their thoughts and weigh their words do so because they understand their speech reflects upon them and they respect themselves enough that they care about that the same way they care about their general appearance, being on time, and a host of other things. True self-respect is bought at the price of self-control. It doesn’t come any other way.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19).
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:11).
Odds & Ends