We all have been there. Our blood is boiling. Emotions are rising. And the next words that come from our mouth are ones we wish we could take back. Whether this is a fight with a spouse, friend, child, or co-worker… it is a common experience. Thankfully, forgiveness and reconciliation help patch up the war of the words! But what do we learn from these experiences?
Can God help us better manage the words that come out of our mouths?
David sure thought so.
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. – Psalm 141:3, NIV
David pleaded with God to provide a “guard” to watch the exit of where his words depart. The vivid metaphor stokes up images of a warrior, maybe an angel, standing with a weapon to ensure that what wants to pass through the “door” of David’s lips is only what should be passing through!
What would that look like today?
Think about the airport. From arriving at the airport to actually being airborne you go through a series of check-points: checking in, going through TSA, and following the boarding procedures. It is never as simple as arriving curbside and walking on the plane. In fact, most people get to the airport approximately two hours before their flight is scheduled to depart because of all the checkpoints. There are check-points (i.e. guards) in place to ensuring that the passengers and their luggage are safe before boarding the aircraft.
What if we had a “check-point” process for our words?
From the moment a word or phrase arrives on the “curbside” of our minds, and before it becomes “airborne,” let’s be sure we partner with the Holy Spirit to have safeguards that help us use our words wisely.
Here are some practical ways to place some guards and goals to how we use our words.
1) Implement ten-second time-outs during heated conversations.
When emotions are high, we are more likely to say something we will later regret. So, instead of lashing out with a clever, quick-witted phrase, take ten-seconds and breath. And think about not only what you are about to say, but how the other person might receive it, and what the longer-term implications are of the word exchange. Psychologists have praised the simple “ten-second rule” as a means of combatting viscerally vicious word choices. After all, most quarrels are a result of too many words, and not enough moments of silence. Perhaps we can learn something from Proverbs 10:19, which attests to the wisdom of those who keep their mouth shut.
2) Triple-check emails and text messages before pressing “send.”
It is amazing how much courage we have when hiding behind the comfort of a keyboard! Unfortunately, most of us use that courage to act as verbal assassins. Instead of simply double-checking, triple-check before you send. Oh, and you cannot do the third check within 30 minutes of your second pass review. What this does is force us to spend more time with it. Time is our friend when it comes to gaining perspective with our words.
3) Be the kind of person who is looking for ways to praise others!
There is a plethora of strategy and intentionality that goes into this. Consider the following examples.
- When having a tough conversation, prime it with encouragement and affirmation before getting to the confrontation.
- Hand-select certain encouraging phrases that acknowledge your spouse. The more specific, the better. (This can equally be applied to other people, too!)
- Think of someone in your life that needs to be up-lifted. Commit to sending them customized encouragement for the next 3-5 days. Sometimes we all need to be on the receiving end of consecutive days of verbal support.
- Praise others publically. If you noticed a co-worker doing a good job, tell your supervisor! If your child does something admirable, tell your spouse. You get the picture. Don’t let the awesomeness of others go unnoticed and unacknowledged.
If you apply these mouth-guarding tips, you are more likely to speak life into your relationships. But these are obviously not all that could be said. What other tips would you share with others? Comment below, we would love to hear from you!