A few days ago I posted the following on facebook: “At least 10 times harder than it sounds: ‘When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.’ Proverbs 10:19”
I even said this as a clarification and followup: “Proverbs are a wonderful guide that God has provided for relating to others. I read this verse to be more general. A multitude of words, where it is easier to sin, applies not only to saying too much or speaking thoughtlessly, but also in saying something when it would be better not to speak at all. Certainly, rashly speaking harsh words or always feeling the need to throw our two cents in is implied here and more specifically addressed in other verses. Lord knows I sometimes struggle with all aspects of this issue! That’s what was on my mind when I posted it, anyway.”
I had been reading and reciting that scripture to help me avoid saying something that was best left unsaid, and God helped me succeed. Within a few days, I failed miserably at the same test. Someone dear to me posted a comment in response to a petition I asked people to sign. The comment offended and angered me, and I felt strongly that something should be said. But that’s not where I went wrong. Where I went wrong was to react to the situation without seeking God’s wisdom first. I spoke rashly and fired back in the comments with what I felt was passion and truth, but it was also loaded with disrespect and assumptions. (I should mention here that the issue was over a matter of opinion and experience, not anything intentionally offensive or provoking.)
The Bible says “in your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:6), but that’s exactly what I did. The Bible also says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Instead of turning away wrath, I stirred up anger and frustration. I felt horrible about the situation.
As a rule, I don’t let the sun go down on my anger and make sure I try to reconcile with anyone who may have something against me. So, sucking up all remnants of my pride, I took a big bite of humble pie and called the person to apologize for acting rashly and disrespectfully and sought out their forgiveness. I have to admit, it was REALLY DIFFICULT! But it was worth it. Of course, because the person is kind, they extended forgiveness and reconciliation gladly and we talked through a few things. We didn’t really end up agreeing on anything other than it was a bad idea to air those things in a public forum, especially one like facebook.
What should I have done? Held my tongue. There is a time and place for speaking up, but that wasn’t one of them. I ended up deleting all comments and reconciling, but I should have deleted them right away and talked with the person 1:1 out of respect and a heart for relationship.
Oh my, God is teaching me so much – mostly over and over because of my thick-headedness. I don’t want bitterness and unaddressed issues to muddy the waters of my relationships. I want to speak less, listen more, and speak only when God’s words are coming out of my mouth. Right now, that seems like an impossible goal. But with God, anything is possible. Even taming my tongue. 🙂