A Sharp Tongue (cuts both ways)

Life Notes—May 9, 2013 

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”  Ephesians 4:29

I was fortunate after finishing graduate school to land a post-graduate administrative fellowship at an area hospital.  My mentor told me on my very first day that working in administration would put me in a “fish bowl.”  He explained that everything I said and did—every word and every expression—would be scrutinized more closely than is done for others.  That sage advice has stuck in my memory, if not always practiced, for many years.  He was exhorting me to “let no evil talk” come out of my mouth, and helping me understand the definition of ‘evil’ is solely in the ear of the listener.

But I have a problem with my mouth—too many words come out of it too often. At times I feel witty and enjoy listening to the spontaneous commentary flowing from my lips. My wife reminds me, with some regularity, I am not nearly as funny as I think I am.  I have a cynical, sarcastic bent and even though most of my cynicism is intended to be in jest, I know the words and observations I find funny can be hurtful when heard by unintended ears.  In addition, I sometimes say things to one person about another that I would not say in the same way to that other person.  Part of me wants to be a comedian and make people laugh, but another part of me wants to be a person of integrity whose word can be trusted.  Mix these various characteristics together and there I am.

The point of the scripture above, though, is not simply to avoid hurtful words.  We should select our words with the intent of building others up and giving “grace to those who hear.”  That can be a pretty tall order for one (like me) who often speaks before thinking.  Further, the line “…as there is need…” implies there should be a need for us to speak before we do so.  In other words, we shouldn’t just speak for our own entertainment.  Ouch!

Clearly, words have power—power to inform, to heal and to hurt.  And in this day of email, texting and tweeting our actual words are often recorded in print for posterity.  It is becoming more difficult to say, “Well, that’s not what I meant,” or to claim a comment was taken out of context or misquoted.  At the very least our words should be tools we use strategically for good and not boomerangs that come back to bonk us.  Sometimes, even the most brilliant and truthful commentary is best left unsaid…

This Sunday is Mother’s Day and Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall, with traditional worship at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Worship at the west campus is at 9 and 11.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Bring your mother to church.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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