Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. –Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
The old phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me” is as well-known as it is false. Words can cause deep emotional scars, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably are aware of times we have been on both the giving and receiving end of hurtful speech.
The story is told of a farmer who wanted to show his son the power of words and how some things can’t be undone. Father and son went into a field carrying many nails and a hammer. The dad said, “Son, drive as many nails as you want into this fencepost.” The boy did so, until nails stuck out everywhere. Then dad explained: “Those nails are like harmful words we tell people. Now, use the claw of the hammer to pull all the nails out.”
The boy did so, but noticed the post was full of nail holes. Dad continued: “When we say something cruel, it’s like sticking nails into someone. Sure, we can later apologize, but just like those nails left holes, our unkind words leave scars.”
James 1:19b reads “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (NIV) Easier said than done, but a good test before we say anything is to ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say helpful?”
Perhaps out of nervousness, a lack of confidence, or habit, some people fear silence and feel the need to always generate conversation. However, an old saying that is true goes: “God gave us two ears but only one mouth. We should use them in proportion.”
In this new week and new year, seek to only say what is helpful and avoid trifling conversation.
Not only is silence golden, it can seldom be misquoted.
This is Part 2 of a 13-Part series, based on 13 virtues that Benjamin Franklin sought to incorporate into his daily life, each of which has a scriptural basis. Since each year has 52 weeks, one can repeat this series four times annually. A chart like the one Franklin designed to help one mark one’s progress can be found here.