Whoops – I can’t believe I said that.
Have you ever had that feeling? Maybe it was right after you said it, maybe it was a day or two later, but we all know that feeling of regret over words that we have said. Words fly out of our mouths so quickly, and we often don’t stop and think about what we have said. I can tell you story after story of times I have had to apologize for something I have said.
The problem is – you can never really take back your words, can you? It is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. It doesn’t work. I have tried it (I have kids who love toothpaste art, to my chagrin). We can apologize and say nice words, but we can’t really take back our words. Even worse, if we have a pattern of certain words – it is hard for people to trust us. Three examples: gossip, angry words, careless criticism.
- Gossip: It is hard not to gossip when we have the dirt on someone. Sometimes we call this “sharing prayer needs” – but the second we share private information or give specific names – we are gossiping. People rarely apologize for gossip, because people rarely admit they are gossiping. Yet as time goes on, others learn not to share with us because they know how our tongues wag.
- Angry Words – It is hard not to hurt others when they are hurting us. In our anger the words go flying, and we often say things that we do not mean. We give an apology, but if we are always hurting people when we are angry, then people will live in that fear, or spite, of us – and stop telling us what we need to hear because we have shown we can’t listen.
- Careless Criticism – As much as we try not to judge others, judgment is built into our brains – we are constantly and quickly making judgments about life and people all the time. Sometimes these judgments come out of our mouths without much thought, and people get very hurt. This happens most often with those we love the most, especially family. We often don’t even think about the harsh word that we spoke to someone, thinking “I was just sharing what I thought” or “I was telling it how I saw it”. But these rash judgments can cause deep pain that people do not quickly forget.
The Bible talks about forgiveness (Matt 18:20-35) and how to deal with those who have hurt us – directly (Matt 18:15-20). The Bible talks about taming the tongue (James 3:1-10) and about using our words to build others up not tear them down (Eph 4:29). We need to grow in the words we say. We need to slow down and think before we speak. Words can not be taken back. We all make mistakes, and we all need to grow in this area. Words can’t be taken back – so let’s be wise in what we say.
I’ll end this with two great quotes from Proverbs 17. Verse 27 says, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” This is a great reminder to stay silent, and to think before we speak, and to control our emotions with the help of Christ. Verse 28 is pretty self explanatory, and such a great words for us to hear: “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Shhh. Don’t speak. You can’t take those words back.