Restrain Yourself

Communication Breakdown
You don’t have to say that!
Don’t hurt others with your words
Be slow to speak

Being careful with our words means exercising restraint in our speech.  Do you do this?  I’m thinking about the person who does not and the many people who are like that.  One woman said to me, “Pastor, when I get mad, it just comes out.  I can’t help it.”  One guy thought about his volatile style admitting, “Well, what can I say, I’m brutally honest.”  In other words, people justify their style of letting every word come out whether it hurts someone or not.

The Bible has much to say about this.  In Proverbs 15:28:  “The heard of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.”  The image here is of a geyser that suddenly erupts.  A wicked man’s mouth is like “Old Faithful,” which is suddenly but consistently erupting.

However, the righteous is described as weighing his answers.  The word “weigh” in the original Hebrew is a business term that involves a scale that carefully weights things during business transactions.  In the same way, the believer, in his verbal transactions, is to carefully weigh his answers before he speaks.  He will not just blurt out everything that is swirling in his heart, because someone’s going to get hurt.  Proverbs 17:27 says, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.”  There’s the word of the day (!), restraint, and especially restrained speech.  You need to put a restraining order on your tongue!

This devotion is about limiting the conversation so that further problems don’t break out. Proverbs 17:14 entreats us with a warning: “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”  This proverb is truly wise as it helps us visualize what happens when a dam is broken; all the water will break out and you can’t control the damage it will cause.  This reminds me of the saying “don’t open up a can of worms.”  What happens when you do?  The worms will wiggle out and you can’t get them back in the can!  In the same way, if you open up a can of unrestrained words and let them wiggle out, it will be hard to take those words back.  They’ve been spoken and the person is now hurt.  You can’t take it back.

People who say, “I can’t help it,” are not being truthful.  Consider this example:  What if you are in an argument with a family member; you are yelling and screaming, saying everything on your mind.  I mean, the words are just coming out in full force!  The dam has been breached.  The can of worms has been opened.  Then suddenly, the phone rings and you clear your throat, quickly gather yourself and answer the phone politely and with a friendly voice you say, “hello.”

When someone says that he can’t help it, what he is really saying is that his family is not important enough for him to control himself.  This is true because he controls himself with everyone else, including his boss at work and the kids he teaches in Sunday school.  The real problem is that this person does not consider his loved ones important enough to exercise restraint.

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,” Proverbs 17:27.  There’s the word of the day, restraint.  May God grant you this knowledge that comes from His Word and the strength that comes from His Spirit.

For deeper insight, click > Communication Breakdown, part 1

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