Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Watch Your Mouth

Talking, over-talking, and just being a  little too loose with words is a subject that keeps coming up lately. My nephew and I were having a conversation the just yesterday about people who don't know when to shut up. Recently, I read in a Bible devotion about the mouth being all kinds of trouble.

I've been working hard myself lately to guard what comes out of my mouth. It's a challenge.

Image result for being a smart mouthWe are conditioned to believe that it's a sign of strength to "speak up" and be aggressive. The problem with that is, we've all lost our way and we tend to be bold when saying things that do no positive good, but we get real  quiet when we might ought to be shouting from the rooftops.

If you sit and think about it, I bet you can name the last time you "cracked wise" or "put somebody in their place" when it came to something silly. Can you tell me that last time you spoke up when it was not a popular thing to do? Go ahead. Take your time. I'll wait.
It's easy to "pop off" at the mouth when we are trying to be cute. We do it all the time in group conversations, on social media, or when we are at the club. It's not so easy when it comes to, say, speaking to someone face-to-face. one-on-one about something that could be life-changing.

Image result for being a smart mouth
The Lord knows I needed kindness
As a Christian, I am finding it easier every day to start biting my tongue and not always saying the first thing that pops into my head when someone makes me mad. (I'm finding it easier, I said, not always done.) What I still have trouble with is talking openly about my faith with someone who might look at me like I'm crazy.

My niece had guests in town recently. They are very dear friends of ours - like family, really. I wanted to share the Gospel with them, but they spent most of their time here out of town, seeing the sights. When I did get a brief moment with one of the ladies, I managed to ask if she "loved Jesus". She replied that she did and I told her that maybe the next time she comes to visit, she could go to church with me.

That exchange took all of 1 minute 10 seconds. Then we were interrupted with the noise of the kids and other people and other things. Life goes on, right?

I am getting better about sharing my faith with people, but I still get a little tongue-tied and nervous that they will be offended or react badly in some other way. Funny how I never worried about that when I shared other things with people. I can remember having had in my past some casual conversations about very intimate things with people. Sometimes, I wasn't even great friends with these folks.


What I am doing to "watch my mouth" these days is basic stuff:

  • Thinking before I speak is harder than it sounds. So much of what we do and say is habit. We've been conditioned to respond out of pride, self-defense and in thoughtless reaction.
  • Trying to first imagine how what I am saying is going to be heard by the person I am speaking to. If I am making a point, is my attitude drowning out my words? 
  • Trying to "keep it real", as folks used to say, while still keeping it true. 
  • Knowing that every sentence out of my mouth does not have to be an opinion. Sometimes, I learn more from what I ask than by what I state.
  • Realizing that conversations are made up of dialogue, not monologues. 
  • Understanding that anyone I speak to has their own ideas about a subject and might want to share them with me as much as I want to share mine with them. And that people want me to give as much thought to their words as I'd like them to give mine. 
This is stuff that I am still working on and I am reminded to work harder at it every time I fail. I fail quite a bit.

If there is one thing that I wish I had learned sooner (while my parents were trying to teach me), it is that being a "smart mouth" is not the same as being smart. Or kind, or respectful, or mature.

If any of you catch me "mouthing off" without decent motivation, please care about me enough to remind me that it's not "cute". From now on, my response to people who are being unkind is to say, "There. Feel better now?" (Just kidding. That is my self-defensive pride talking.) What I will do is try to be as patient with them as I would want someone to be with me.