I like to talk. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, Kathryn. Shocker.” I know. Hear me out. It’s not that I don’t like silence or being quiet. I’m actually very comfortable in it. It’s that when I’m with other people, I want to communicate. I want to share stories and ideas and information. Silence feels like lost opportunity!
I’m sure you’ve heard the quip, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” It’s attributed to several people like Abraham Lincoln (for the wisdom) and Mark Twain (for the humor), but what may come as no surprise to you, it has its origins in Proverbs: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:28) But why, though, Solomon? I consider myself a well-educated, intelligent woman. Why am I risking foolishness by speaking?
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV)
I came across this verse a while back during one of my quiet times. And it really had an impact on me. I found myself prompted by the Spirit to investigate what my mouth was saying about my heart.
As the mom of two toddlers, all of my topics of conversation are geared toward emphasizing sharing, encouraging the eating of more fruit and protein, breaking up fights, failing at potty training, and not putting x in/on/at/near y. My adult conversations however, consisted a lot of complaining about the above. I found myself making all the played out mom-of-toddlers jokes, and passing along funny memes about kids driving me crazy, and generally commiserating with other moms of toddlers about how much of a job it is. And it is. It’s a hard job. Mama, I see you. [Hunger Games salute] However, no matter how much I’m joking around, when you start saying something enough, you start believing it.
It comes down to the power of suggestion and the perpetuation of a thought or idea – no matter what its foundation is. Have you ever been reading something online and you think “Oh, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I guess it’s a thing now if it’s so pervasive that I’ve happened to see it.” And then all of the sudden it’s viral and you see it everywhere? For example, about ten years ago, my college roommate came into our dorm and lamented that she needed to go on a diet because her thighs were beginning to touch. I was confused because I was a healthy and active individual whose thighs have touched her entire life. Why was this a big deal? Within a few weeks, I noticed it everywhere. It was the biggest beauty trend. The “thigh gap” had gone viral. This all started because of the mouth – or, you know, our modern day version of it, the internet. And like its namesake, viruses tend to make us sick.
It’s no wonder then that the Bible has such strong language regarding the tongue and the words that come from our mouths. James goes so far as to say: “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (3:5b-6, NLT)
Let me tell you, as a resident of California, a small spark is no joke. In fact, it was the spark from the wheel rim of a flat tire that caused the Carr Fire this summer. This seemingly mundane event that can happen to anyone caused the sixth most destructive fire event in California’s history. The Bible is clear that our words can have the same impact. While this impact can admittedly be positive, the dire warning shows us that it is far more easy and likely to be destructive.
The abundance of my heart was criticism and cynicism. I do not want these sparks to become a wildfire of resentment towards my children, despair towards my husband, and repulsion from my friends and neighbors. Most of all, this was not the heart of Jesus. So how can I call myself a “Christ follower?” When Christ spoke, it reflected a heart of compassion, mercy, tenderness, truth, and authenticity. He offered words of healing, not criticism. He offered hope, not cynicism.
Oh be careful, little mouth, what you say….ask yourself, “What do the words I say tell me about the condition of my heart? Am I reflecting a heart of Christ (Ephesians 5:1) or is my heart making me sick (Jeremiah 17:9)?” You might be surprised.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51:10-17, ESV)