Be Careful What You Say

June 29, 2019
by Vincent Walter

When I lived in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, some years ago, the local Ministerial Association invited a prominent minister to lead a series of evangelistic meetings. The speaker wasn't Billy Graham, but he was well-known, and so, his visit was highly anticipated.

At the beginning of his first address, he announced that there would be a change from his normal practice of going to the door to greet attendees at the end of the service. Apparently, at his previous engagement, he had followed this normal custom, and had been warmly greeted with favourable comments until the third person shook his hand and said, "Worst sermon I've ever heard."

Stunned, he continued to be warmly greeted until this same person again appeared in the line, shook his hand, and said, "Just stuff and nonsense."

The line continued, and then for a third time, the same person said, "Just plain garbage."

He told us that when he arrived at the home where he was staying, he commented upon the lovely people that had been present and the kind comments that had been made. He did, however, start to describe one person who was quite different.

The host immediately told the visitor not to worry. Apparently, he knew exactly who it was and said that the person was developmentally challenged. "He is really quite harmless. In fact, all he ever does is repeat what he hears other people say."

After the audience's laughter subsided, the speaker was able to go on to teach profound thoughts.

The tongue is a powerful tool that can be used for good. Kind, positive comments can be very helpful. They can be considered a little thing, but can have a big influence, especially when someone is feeling discouraged.

But the words must be sincere, or they could have the opposite effect. Have you ever fallen into the trap of saying, "How are you today?" and then not listening to the reply? We sometimes greet another in a flippant manner and then do more harm than good when we don't take the time to listen to the reply of someone who is really hurting.

The host said that the person described was "quite harmless". In fact, by repeating the words of others, he was doing harm. But probably the greater harm was done by the insincere people who made negative comments but then said favourable things later.

There is a time for constructive criticism, but generally, the old advice is wise counsel: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." You never know when someone else might repeat it!

There are many verses in the Bible that give us good advice regarding what we say.

Psalm 141:3 – Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (ESV)

Proverbs 17:27-28 – A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (NIV)

Perhaps, we should remember the children's song:

    Be careful little tongue what you say
    For the Father up above is looking down in love,
    So be careful little tongue what you say.

Prayer: Dear Father, thank You for the opportunity that we have to help others by what we say. Help us to be careful to use that gift to Your glory. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Vincent Walter <vwalter@bell.net>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Always a pertinent reminder, Vincent.


    Thanks, Vincent. Psalm 141:3 is a daily guideline!


    I enjoyed today’s devotional. It was great! Thank you.


    So much wisdom in that example. Thank you for writing.


    Thank you for my morning chuckle with a lesson. Well written.


    So true, Vincent! Thank you for the reminder of that old children’s song too!


    Thank you, Vincent for this simple but profound parable to aid our understanding.


    As always Vince, a good devotional from you. Please keep sharing through Presbycan.


    Thank you for the good advice of the second half of your devotional.
    Keep writing.


    Thanks for your insights, and this may be a reason that some ministers greet the people as they come to worship instead of after.


    Hello Vincent – my Father used to use that saying, “if you can’t say anything nice… say nothing at all.” I never heard the further part about “you don’t know who will repeat it.” How true that is. Thank you for the blessing of this devotional.


    Thank you, Vincent, for sharing this devotional with us. As the mother of a developmentally challenged son, this devotional brought home the need to hear my son and people like him with compassionate ears and loving hearts. While my son comprehends fairly well, he still needs oodles of acceptance and love … as do we all when we think about it. Blessings.


    Dear Walter:
    Thank you for your thoughtful devotional. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked people how they are, and their reply was, “nobody really cares anyway”. How very sad that expression is. How very hurt these people must be.
    I will continue to ask, and I will continue to listen and hopefully be able be of help to someone.
    God bless you Walter and thank you for writing.


    Hello Vince,
    Thank you for another excellent devotional. The tongue can certainly be a vicious weapon and we need be ever mindful of thinking before speaking and follow the Lord’s advice to speak kindly to each other.
    Thanks also for the reminder of the children’s song. Brought back memories of when I taught Sunday school.
    Many blessings to you.
    (B.C.)


    Hi Vincent,
    I really enjoyed reading your devotional today. “Developmentally challenge” – that made me laugh! I have been experiencing comments from “developmentally challenged” people in my life lately. However, l say nothing, choosing to guard my mouth instead because l know these opinions are coming from a good heart. Yet, it is inappropriate, and it hurts me.
    I just give it to God and continue to love them, though it is hard at the moment.
    Blessings.


    Amen Vincent!

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