Monday, March 4, 2013

If you can't say something nice...

I remember sitting at my best friend’s kitchen table when I was in third grade, and I was talking to my friend about another girl in our class. My friend’s mother, who was cooking dinner, turned to me and said in a very gentle but firm voice, “Now, Sally, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I was stunned and so embarrassed, but was forever grateful for the rebuke!

Not that I never said something that wasn’t nice after that day . . . just being real, here! But I really DO try to consciously make my mouth an instrument of encouragement. And, as a teacher, I’m constantly echoing these words. In fact, I just took a girl in my class aside last week and told her this very thing! It’s the message of today’s verses:

A wise man heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (Proverbs 1-3, NIV 1984)

Verse 2 shows us that when we speak good things from our mouths, we not only bless the hearer, but we also bless ourselves. And don’t you feel better after you’ve said something nice to someone and seen his response? But when you snipe at someone or critically attack a person, and you see them crumble, a bit of you shrivels up as well.

And so frequently these harsh words are directed at those we are supposed to love the most - our family! How much better to thank my husband for always taking out the trash or for the wonderful way he makes time for the grandkids, than to gripe because he left the dishes in the sink again, or, worse, put them in the dishwasher the wrong way! Can anyone relate?

Verse 3 says that when we guard our lips, we actually are guarding our lives! How much damage we can inflict, with long-lasting effects, when we speak rashly! Once the words escape our mouths, we can never take them back. And there are so many untruths we speak when we are angry! Many of them begin with “You always...” or “You never...” And one of my personal least favorites, “Everyone thinks...” Each of those is always followed by something nasty and untrue! And you can’t undo the damage done.

LORD, teach us to guard our lips - to hold back on the negatives, but to flow, instead with benedictions. May we be slow to speak, unless it's to bless!

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