Think Twice. Maybe Thrice
Every major world religion has cautionary words about the use of speech, both its proper and improper use. A few tip-of-the-iceberg examples:
Hinduism: “He does not live in vain who employs his speech for the good of others.”
Islam: “Speak the truth” (Qur’an, 3:17) “Speak no lie.” (Qur’an, 29:30) “Speak justice.”
(Qur’an, 6:152) “Speak graciously.” (Qur’an, 17:23) “Speak gently.” (Qur’an, 20:44)
Confucianism: “The tongue must be heavy indeed because so few people can hold it.”
Buddhism: “The tongue is like a sharp knife; it kills without drawing blood.”
Judaism: “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings
healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
Christianity: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How
great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” (James 3:5)
Of course, comments about the use of speech are also quoted from philosophers to comedians to politicians. “The best time for you to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust.” (Josh Billings, 19th cent. American humorist). So much is written and said about the use of speech because of the power of the tongue to build up or tear down.
My father said to me more than once (I can’t imagine why) – “Randy, put your brain in gear before your mouth.” Good counsel. Think twice, maybe thrice, before setting the tongue and lips in motion.
- Don’t make a promise that you aren’t absolutely sure you can keep.
- Ask: Is what I’m about to say going to build up or tear down; help or hinder?
- Judge whether someone might be offended by your language, even if you are not.
- Will my words reveal wisdom or foolishness?
- Ask: Do I know what I’m talking about, or will I be speaking out of ignorance?
The list could continue on and on. Language is indeed a gift to be treasured. We would all do well to treat it that way.