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Monday, November 23, 2015

Whoops! That one just escaped!

The majority of us would rather be remembered for something profound we might have said at a point in history than to be remembered for the silliness which sometimes has a way of coming out of our mouths at not always the most perfect moment.  We want to "go down in history", not as the fool, but as the wise.  Then how come we spend so much time letting foolish words escape our lips?  Maybe it is because we neglect the heart!  The words which escape our lips are merely a reflection of what is in our heart at that moment.  Deal with the attitude of the heart and the words which come forth won't just "escape" - they will serve purpose, hit the mark, and give wise counsel to the hungry soul.

From a wise heart flow careful words; wise words make the lips more persuasive. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb: they drip sweet food for life and bring health to the body. (Proverbs 16:23-24 VOICE)

I have found that I can judge the effectiveness of my words by how easily they come out of my mouth.  Those which seem to escape usually don't have a lot of thought behind them, or they are stemming from a whole lot of "wrong thought"!  Words which simply "escape" our lips are oftentimes words which indicate a departure of some degree from the standard by which we have deviated.  When I allow impure thoughts to invade the spaces of my mind, they begin to affect my emotions, and when my emotions get caught up in the mix, the words which seem to come forth without restraint are less than pure, as well.  They may be crass, cutting, or sarcastic.  They could be unkind, hurtful, or shameful.  Either way, they don't bear much grace, love, or concern for those around me.  They are the words of a fool, not the words of the wise.

Wise words flow from the heart and they are carefully spoken.  I think of them as the kind of words which help to paint a picture - filling in the blanks for someone - not just filling space! Careful words are precise - they get to the point and are able to pinpoint the specific need of the circumstance or situation.  They are also words which reflect I have been attentive to the things and people around me - not just glossing over, flitting in, or randomly being engaged. If my words are to be effective, they have to come as a result of me being attentive to God first, then to the needs of those around me.  Carefully spoken words are those which are chosen from a whole myriad of words, but are specifically the correct ones for the moment. They have impact, not because I am perfect, but because those words come as a result of being willing to allow God to speak through me.

The difference between foolish words and the words of the wise is often the amount of time one takes being mindful of the source of the words one is speaking.  As I went through Bible College, one of the challenges my dean gave to each of us was that of walking around one full day with a tape recorder taking note of all the words we would speak in that day.  Then we were to play it back, making special note of how many times we spoke about ourselves, or how many times we just spoke in a way which showed we didn't really listen to the one we were speaking with.  We were to play those tapes over and over until we were able to glean as much information about the way we engaged with others in order to learn how to be cognizant of our words.  I have to admit, it didn't take a full day of tapes to show me that I had a tendency to talk over people, jumping into their conversation before they got a chance to finish what they wanted to say, almost "pre-interpreting" their needs.  Carefulness in my words was not really a priority for me at that point in my life!

Mindfulness is important if we are to become wise in the use of our words.  One of my instructors told us after this exercise a little saying which has stuck with me down through the years:  Think all you will speak, but don't speak all you think.  In other words, give some thought to what you will say, but be sure to filter what you say so that only the helpful, beneficial, and grace-filled words come forth.  Not everything we think needs to be said - not everything we say shows we spent much time thinking about it, either!  We need this fine balance if we are to become "effective" in our communication with each other - mindfulness over our words, and then the willingness to be silent long enough to allow the Holy Spirit to place a filter over our words so only the helpful stuff flows forth (vs. allowing everything we think to just escape our lips).

Carefully spoken words are deliberate - prudent, purposeful, and pondered.  The three "P's" of wise words.  Prudent words are those which are judicious - they show discernment and reveal common sense.  Purposeful words are those which carry a significance - they have a meaning which brings sense to a circumstance, gives direction, and helps to sort out difficult issues.  Pondered words have been weighed carefully and are determined to be the "right words" for the "right moment" for the "right person" to be hearing.  These three "P's" might just help us to become the type of individuals whose words "flow" from rather than "escape" our lips!  Just sayin!