“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” – Psalm 141: 3 – 4From David:
We are encouraged to guard our mouths. When I played rugby, we were always told to wear gum shields to protect our mouths from impact – though the early ones were held in place more by wishful thinking than good design! The one time I trained without a mouthguard was the one time I chipped my tooth. Our dentist metaphorically drills into us the important of oral hygiene, so that we will guard our mouths from his more literal drills. But it turns out that there is a greater danger from which we need to guard our mouths – it doesn’t come from outside our bodies, but from our hearts.
I have always struggled with controlling what I say – words can have a huge impact. In a recent assembly I told the story of how, when I was at primary school, a thoughtless word of bravado led to a fight between two boys in my class. The Lord has helped me to get better in this area, but he had a lot of work to do in the first place and still has today.
I mention this because, at this time, we need to be more careful than normal about what we say for two reasons. The first is that at times when we feel out of control our self-control struggles more. Stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, fear, all mean that we are more prone to words slipping out which we would not normally say. I’ve already seen this in myself (and have had to apologise to those I’ve hurt), and I’ve seen it in others.
The second reason we need to be more self-controlled is that our communication is more limited. We do not have the context of regular face to face interaction and so we are more dependant on emails, texts and video calls. So what do we do?
- Be more careful. Take extra care in what we write. If criticism is necessary, we make sure that it is surrounded by the assurance of love, commitment, humility and care.
- Be more generous. One of our church wardens reminded me of this. Read generously. Be slow to take offense. The Bible tells us that love covers over a multitude of sins. I think that this includes the idea that our love for people means that we overlook the things they might do to hurt us.
- Pray to the Lord. This psalm doesn’t say, “Buck your ideas up and try harder.” It is a prayer. The psalmist knows he will fail, but that God won’t.
- Start at the source. The verse talks about our hearts being drawn to what is evil. The psalmist recognises that what we say out loud starts with what we say in secret in our hearts. While it is good to hold back from saying something, to stop at that makes us hypocrites. We need the Lord’s help to change the conversations we have in our heart.
Written by David King.