Zip It!!! Be Slow to Speak…

There are many examples of public figures speaking before they think.  Last night, Republican Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina put aside political appropriateness when he was quick to call President Obama a liar during his televised speech on health care reform to Congress.  Several weeks ago, President Obama was called on the carpet after he accused the Cambridge, MA police force of acting “stupidly” in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.  I’d like to think that both of these men regretted opening their mouths before thinking after they said these things.

It’s easy to point the finger at these public figures – after all, leaders are expected to be above reproach, and they should know better.  And they are easy targets.  Upon further thought, I know we’re all guilty of this kind of speaking without thinking.  I was reminded today of a time when I was in junior high, and I was at a dress rehearsal for a musical that I was in at our church.  Believe it or not, I was selected to sing a solo (who would have thought).  As a result, I was equipped with a wireless microphone.  During one of our breaks while I was in the men’s room, I said some things that I later regretted.  When I returned from the break, I discovered from one of the sound people that my initial words were shared loud and clear in the sanctuary thanks to the wonders of wireless technology.  Thankfully, they quickly muted my microphone.  But it didn’t stop the feeling of embarrassment and regret that swept over me when I found out.

In all the cases above (including mine), the regret came after being caught.  Did we ever stop to think that God can hear us even if no one else can?  Did we ever stop to examine our hearts.  I’m reminded of two passages that speak to this.  First, in the first few verses of Psalm 139, we’re told that not only does God know our words but he even knows our thoughts:

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Secondly, in the first chapter of James, instructions our given that we should be slow to speak:

19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Sounds easy?  I’m not so sure.  I know that my thoughts and words are not always what they should be.  So where do I go from here?  I think it starts with being more in tuned to God, becoming more aware of times we think and say things that aren’t appropriate, and seeking God to help make a change.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10