“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
There is a woman in my neighborhood who has homemade signs in her front yard. I don’t know her, but her signs speak volumes to me. Her signs are colorful and hand-lettered. She displays a popular slogan against a political candidate and carefully letters out an acrostic of negative name-calling. When I walk our borrowed dog past her house it makes me sad to see such ugly sentiments permanently on display, marking her space.
This is my own struggle lately. Harsh and judgmental words.
Almost every morning I awake with my own words that I spoke carelessly the day before haunting me. “I shouldn’t have said that,” I think regretfully. I will text a friend to apologize. I will confess to my God the ugliness bouncing around in my heart and spilling out of my mouth.
I will determine to keep my mouth shut today. My tongue will be carefully guarded I promise myself; I stand alert with a water hose in my hand, ready to douse this flame ready to burn. And then I do it again. Some catty comment just slips right out. My tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
My ugly words are the plank in my eye. The addiction that calls my name.
I pause to consider before I speak, yet still, they come right out; colorful and hand-lettered words crafted with judgment and self-righteousness. “Uck,” I think. “Who put that hate-filled sign in my own front yard denouncing hate?” To borrow from Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic?”
God has a lot to say about our words. They are powerful. They are meaningful. They destroy or they build up. They reveal our heart. King Solomon wrote about words in his collection of wise sayings. Jesus taught about words in his beatitudes on the mountain. Paul preached about words to the new believers.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)
A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (GNT)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Words. My words.
When I was younger, I worked with a woman who used vulgar words in every sentence. I spent a great deal of time with her, and my language gradually began to reflect hers. And then I had a child. And he started talking. And I realized pretty quickly that I needed to clean up my act – immediately. Occasionally, especially during bad traffic, a word would slip out. A little voice, coming from the toddler strapped into the car-seat behind me would pipe up, “What you said? What you said?” His little ears were so attuned to the smallest slip of my tongue.
A friend of mine recently made her granddaughter wash her mouth out with soap. That is what I need; a clean mouth. The problem is I must let God wash my heart first. I think I must approach this the same way one approaches any addiction; I must not partake of any of the hate-filled speech that vibrates around me. I must go cold turkey. I need to fill my heart with the love that comes from God each morning… and I must continue dipping into that love all throughout the day.
Today, I am going to submit myself to the washing of my heart, the washing of my tongue. This is my challenge that I can only accomplish with a strength and power much stronger than my own: To speak only what is good and uplifting. To speak words of beauty and truth. And this is my prayer;
Lord, guard the words of my heart.
Fill my mouth with what is lovely, pure, and honorable.
Fill my heart with words of praise.
And let those words of love spill out. Amen.
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New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.