A friend I worked with for several years worked hard to control his speech. Whenever he naturally would have made a sarcastic or quick comeback, he would pass his hand in front of his face as a physical reminder to “filter” his words. It was a visible reminder to himself to think before he spoke. It gave him pause.
Of course we all knew he had left something unsaid. Perhaps something biting that may have been funny, but not kind or helpful. Like my friend, when we “filter” our words before we allow them to leave our mouths, we check our speech for any impurities or damaging elements.
Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t much value the verbal filter today. Instead, we want to hear every cutting, rude, crude, hurtful word. In fact, the more outrageous the better. All we have to do is tack on a “just saying” and it’s all good. Today’s mug reflects our society’s desire to hear every unfiltered word. (I know it’s only been two weeks since we talked about our speech, but seriously, we can’t talk about it enough!)
God not only tells His children we should use filters for our mouths, He tells us very specifically what we should filter out and what we should allow through:
“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
The Greek word translated as “unwholesome” refers to far more than foul language or curse words. It means we shouldn’t say anything that tears down or deflates the one who hears our words. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever say anything hard of difficult to hear, but that the goal of our speech is to help and build up the other person.
This is so challenging for me! Think about this, what percentage of what comes out of our mouths helps and builds up the hearer? What percentage hurts or tears down the hearer?
Yes, I long for 100% of my words to build up and 0% to tear down. Unfortunately, my filter is often faulty. How about you?
God commands us to control our speech, so in part, using our filter is a step of obedience. But we also need the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit because “no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8) on our own. We need His divine power!
If you want to tame the tongue and control your speech, join me in this “filter prayer”:
“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3, NIV
Here’s the good news: God is waiting to help us control our speech! Let’s ask Him to help us keep that filter in place!
What about you? Have you ever taken pride in your “anything goes” speech? Have you struggled to control it only to fail time and time again?