A few months ago, my sister-in-law took me to a shooting range and I fired a gun for the first time. She gave me a quick lesson in handling the gun before we left, and before I was allowed to shoot, I was required to watch a 30 minute video of rules and safety tips. These produced a necessary and healthy fear of the firearm in me. Even so, there was a ranger standing nearby watching to see if I was exhibiting any unsafe behaviors.
The act of firing a gun, even in a controlled environment, is fraught with danger. It is a deadly weapon and there are good reasons for careful monitoring.
The word “careful” means full of care, that’s pretty obvious. Other synonyms for careful are meticulous, attentive, precise, and deliberate. The shooting range employed meticulous and deliberate procedures for our safety.
How careful are you with your words? How attentively do you choose the precise ones? Does your carelessness ever get you into trouble?
There were many years when I wasn’t careful at all. I was often unkind, sarcastic and harsh. Most of the time I wasn’t intending to harm, I was just trying to be funny or get attention. I didn’t care about the affect my words had on others. But I inflicted much hurt and stirred up anger in my carelessness.
Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”
Think about that – you can stab others when you’re not careful about angrily venting your feelings. And a sword piercing can often be fatal, this is no minor scrape. A stab wound will send a person to the ER in serious condition. Is that what we want to do to our family, friends, or co-workers?
This is a picture (Proverbs 12:18) of a person speaking before they think, or acting without thought for the consequences. I imagine myself wildly swinging a sword or gun around, not caring what or if I hit anything. Words spoken in anger are often reckless, and then we can’t get them back, or suck them back into our mouths. They have caused irreparable harm.
LACK OF CONTROL
Consider “losing your temper.” If you have done this, you have erupted in rage and lost control over your emotions and mouth. I used to lose my temper in arguments with my husband and I said terrible things to him. I felt justified, because I blamed him for our conflict. (Side note: this is a prime characteristic of a bitter person: they blame others yet excuse their own bad behavior). I believed he had caused me to feel so angry that I just lost it. I didn’t think I should be held responsible for the awful things I said in the heat of anger. But those words had an affect and caused damage, no matter how much I wanted to take them back after I had cooled off.
And if you ask someone to recall the deepest wounds they received as a child, it is often because of a parent’s negative or thoughtless words. Some parents say harsh things that a child remembers all their lives. Even a joke can be harmful to children. My mother used to make comments whenever we saw an overweight person: “Just keep eating, Linda!” She meant to be funny, but it caused me to be ultra-sensitive and insecure about my appearance.
Scripture has strong words about the lack of care we take with our words:
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. (NIV)
A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. (NASB) Proverbs 29:11
Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (ESV)
JUST BE QUIET!
Words spoken in anger are always harmful, but there is also the issue of speaking too many words. We who tend to be verbose, often get into trouble by saying things we didn’t mean, because of sheer volume alone. Those who engage in thoughtless chatter get special mention in Proverbs 10:
Proverbs 10:8b …but a chattering fool comes to ruin. (NIV)
Proverbs 10:10b …and a chattering fool comes to ruin. (NIV)
Proverbs 10:19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (NLT)
So how careful are we with our words?
Lord, may you work in me in this area to be more vigilant about what and how much I say. Help my words to bless and not to harm. For your glory, I pray.