Wise are those who restrain their talking;
People with understanding are coolheaded.
Fools who keep quiet are deemed wise;
Those who shut their lips are smart.
Mark Twain famously said “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think that you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” And surely we have all been told to “think before you speak!” Apparently your mom, Mark Twain and Proverbs all had the same idea in mind. Think before you speak and then, maybe, still don’t speak! The problem is even with this advice, we have all been in circumstances where we wish we could take back the words that we said or we spoke too quickly before we knew all the facts. So why is it so hard to follow this proverb?
James 3 tells us that the problem is actually even bigger than just not thinking before we talk. It is an issue of the heart. He says that like a spark which can start a forest fire, so is a careless word. Our tongues which we use one moment to pray to God and sing praises to him, we then use to hurt and cut down our brothers and sisters who are made in God’s image. What is the solution?
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” James 3:17,18 The Message
So the solution is to be transformed by God’s love available to us in Jesus! So let’s follow after him, he will transform us to be more in his likeness. And as we are being transformed, bite your tongue (even if you think you are right)!
P.S. I think that if Proverbs or James was written today, they might include the written word (aka facebook, twitter, etc…) too.