“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]

The longer we live, the more we should learn. I have made a list of “Things I Have Learned.” One of them is, “When in doubt about what to say, don’t say anything.” As is true with many of my lessons, I too often violate my own rules, especially this one. So, I have to relearn it, or as the Israelites in the wilderness, I go around the same mountain again and again. I also struggle with a similar rule, “Think before you speak.” The fact is, I have trouble keeping my big, fat mouth shut.

I violated these rules just last week. A situation arose that I knew would cause stress between my wife and me. I knew that if I made a certain comment I would stir up a hornet’s nest. I began praying, “Lord, put a guard over my mouth, put a guard over my mouth.” For a while I held it in, but I could feel the pressure building. Sure enough, I blurted it out. And sure ‘nuff, the storm erupted.

Now I ask you, wouldn’t you think a man of my age and experience would have enough control to avoid such conflict? I know the Scriptures. I know what the Bible says about controlling the tongue and avoiding strife. Why in the world did I say that? Why in the world do we say things that we know will get us in trouble?

If you have the answer to that, please let me know. I try to live by Ephesians 4:29. I want my words to be encouraging and uplifting and beneficial. And I surely want to watch what I say to my wife!

Speaking out of turn, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and saying hurtful things is a huge problem. As Christians, we know better, for the Scriptures warn us against it many times. For example Proverbs 21:23 tells us, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

We can improve our lives dramatically by simply studying and applying what the Bible says about controlling our speech. I hope that I re-learned this truth with my recent boo-boo, and next time I feel the spirit telling me “don’t say that” I won’t say that. Stephan Grellet said, “Keep your words sweet – you may have to eat them.” Good quote, for we know that sour words are very bitter on the re-chew.

Weigh your words carefully. Think before you speak.

—Dr. Sam Smith is the organizer of Butterfly Ministries and can be reached at ssmithkate@aol.com.