“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise, when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)
For many of us, learning when to keep our mouths shut can seem like an impossible task. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that my mouth has gotten me in trouble. When it comes to a subject that we are passionate about, or in the midst of a heated discussion, we are all prone to saying things that in hindsight would have been better left unsaid. We learn, through trial-and-error, when we have gone beyond the bounds of what is acceptable.
Several months ago, I had a discussion with my son about this very subject. He got in the habit of expressing his displeasure whenever he was asked to do something that he didn’t want to do. It was getting him in trouble at home, but it also began to spill over at school, and I received a very disheartening email from one of his teachers. He knew better than to be disrespectful to an adult, but he was having trouble balancing his growing independence and opinions with how to express them in appropriate ways.
I tried to help him understand that he is entitled to his opinions, but that he is not always entitled to express them, especially when doing so undermined someone in authority over him, whether that was a parent, a coach, a teacher, etc. He was getting increasingly frustrated and having trouble understanding why his words and actions were seen as disrespectful when, as he had recently been learning in Social Studies, Americans have the first amendment to protect our rights to free speech. I’m not sure why, but this argument was so funny to me that I started laughing, and then seeing the ridiculousness of his argument, he started laughing and what had been a tense situation quickly resolved itself.
Learning these kinds of boundaries is a very difficult thing to do, and some people are better at picking up on it than others because they can easily read when they are pushing someone too far and reign it in a little. Others are simply very disciplined and are able to keep their tongues in check, even when they are very upset. And other people just bottle everything up, instead of lashing out and saying something they might later regret. But I think the secret to controlling our tongues, is what’s found in the second half of verse 27…We have to cultivate a “cool” spirit.
When we begin to walk in the Spirit, scripture teaches us that many “fruits” begin to grow and manifest in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When you allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate these characteristics within you, you will have a much easier time remaining calm, collected and level-headed. There’s simply no room in this list for angry outbursts, sarcastic comments, or cutting remarks. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to overcome our naturally defensive, offended responses and are able to respond with love and grace even to those who attack us.
Controlling my tongue is something that I will probably have to work on for the rest of my life. I’ll say things that I wish I hadn’t. I’ll not say things that I’ll wish I did. I will intentionally and unintentionally hurt people that I love and respect very much. I will respond angrily to others when I should respond with compassion. It’s just part of being a sinful man. But I will do my best to allow the Holy Spirit to create a “cool” spirit within me that will allow my words (and also my silence!) to be a source of truth, healing, and wisdom in the world.
Just play it cool, friends!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to guard my tongue. Cultivate a “cool” spirit within me so I can respond with wisdom and compassion rather than frustration or anger. I pray that my words would not incite drama, but would be a healing balm in difficult times. I desire to be a peacemaker and show your love to everyone I interact with. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.