A friend was teaching her four year old son about spoken words. She wanted him to know how important it is to think before he speaks, to use either kind words or no words at all, and to respond when spoken to in an uplifting and respectful manner. She wrote the word “W O R D” on a piece of cardboard, making sure he knew what those four letters meant.
Then asking her son to take the tube of toothpaste, she told him to trace over the four letters with the paste as he squeezed it from the tube. For a four year old, this was great fun! Upon completion she praised him on his careful toothpaste tracing. Her next request surprised him. She said, “Now, put the toothpaste back into the tube.”
He looked at the cardboard with the toothpasted “W O R D” on it. “Mom, I can’t get it back into this tiny hole,” he said in frustration while pointing to the end of the tube. She asked him why he couldn’t do it. He felt some angst because he was disobeying his mother by not put the paste back in the little hole.
The mother then began her lesson of the importance of the words we speak. They talked about how important it is to think before speaking; and that once a word is out of our mouth, we cannot put it back into our mouth. She explained that it is hard to take back words with an apology, and that words could hurt people’s feelings and have lasting effects on relationships.
She talked to him about thinking about how our words might make someone else feel. Would they make them feel better or worse? Would they be helpful or hurtful? Would the person think better of us or poorly of us? As this simple lesson can teach a child, so too can it teach us that our words can have those same effects on family, friends, co-workers, and anyone on our daily journey.
We need to think about what we are about to say before the actual words exit our mouths. I am often reminded of this toothpaste lesson, guarding my tongue and weighing my words as best as I possibly can. Caution and prior reflection help me say and do that which God desires of me. He wants His children to be salt and light in this world. We must ask Him for His guidance and His wisdom for our words.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
-Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
“LORD, You created me for Your Glory. I desire to be a light to this world, yet the tongue can darken that very light You shine through me. May I hold my tongue until I know Your words. May I be centered upon You, LORD, so that my tongue speaks words pleasing to You and You alone. Forgive me for unbridled words…”