A ten year old boy with a new pocketknife takes it out of his pocket many times throughout the day for no specific reason. He isn’t necessarily planning mischief, but after admiring it and waving it about for the fifteenth time, something ends up getting cut.
You are that ten year old boy. Your tongue is that pocketknife. You don’t plan to say something hurtful or thoughtless or dumb, but as the words come tumbling out, some of them get away from you. The worst part is that in many cases there was no reason for you to open your mouth at all!
The Power of Holding Back
Proverbs 17:27 says that whoever restrains his words has knowledge. Such a person knows something about himself, about what the situation calls for, and about the power and wildness of the tongue, and what he knows about these things moves him to hold himself back from speaking out. Knowledge leads to self-control.
This is more than the self-preservation instinct that kicks in after a while, even in a fool. Like a dog bouncing off an electric fence, after talking his way into trouble enough times, a fool eventually learns to shut up for his own good. But the restraint that marks the knowledgeable man includes love for others too and so he builds a Hoover Dam in his mind to protect his hearers from being washed away in the flood of his thoughts. He also knows something about humility. Other people love to speak too and he considers them more important than himself. The knowledgeable man knows peace. There are other forces for good in the world besides his tongue, which means that it’s okay for him to go bed even though someone on the internet is wrong.
The knowledgeable man knows gentleness. Multiplied words, however true or well-meant, can place a burden on an already heavily-laden back. Sometimes a look, a hand on the shoulder, or a hug says enough. The knowledgeable man also knows patience. He is a thought-vintner, refusing to expose the fermenting fruits of his thoughts to the open air too soon. Instead, he bottles up his counsel in the cellar of his mind until it has aged to perfection.
Such a person deletes many Facebook posts, tweets, and emails, even before they get sent. His opinions are not found in the bulk section. When you talk, this man listens, and doesn’t interrupt. He pauses before giving an answer, because he is restraining his words like a parent restrains a toddler on the sidewalk. The words that finally do come from his mouth are carefully chosen and worth remembering. You don’t need a pickaxe and a week’s hard work to dig the ore out of his mountain of words. He fashions a beautiful ring for you out of refined gold.
Conversation With Purpose
It’s hard to hear a still, small, voice over the sound of your own prattle. Becoming a word-restrainer starts with not talking so much. It means having an edifying purpose in mind before opening your mouth and thinking about the end of a sentence before letting the beginning fly.
It means taking a pin to a conversation swollen with hot air, and jamming the brakes on a runaway train of thought. It means not answering a fool according to his folly, and not trying to teach a pig how to wear pearls. It means letting a thousand opinions go unvoiced. Silence makes a fool seem wise and listening silently is a great way for fools to learn what the man who restrains his words knows.
This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Every Thought Captive magazine. Subscribe Today!