“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NASB).
I love the late-season color my chrysanthemums give me at this time of year. Of course, we all like to call them by their nickname, Mums. As many mums as I have in my yard, there are even more instances where a mum demeanor would have been preferable than events that unfolded when I was more vocal than necessary.
Words have meaning and impact. They should be used with precision and careful thought beforehand. And in so many cases, they don’t need to be spoken at all. It took a long time for me to realize that nobody expects me to spout wisdom at every turn, but just to be there. What may be more needed is a hug, or a shoulder to cry on.
Sometimes we want to fix things that are broken, including relationships and situations. Sometimes words can do that. Sometimes not. There are times when the most appropriate words are simply, “I love you.” “I am there for you.” A meaningful “Tell me how I can help you” can be the best thing to say in lieu of unwanted advice. In fact, letting our actions do the talking with real care and concern can open up opportunities for productive dialogue later.
It was through the providence of God this past week that I was able to mend a problem through some kind words. Much prayer went into the words used, and it seems to have worked for a young lady who had been a friend of my daughter. This is not always possible. It’s okay to be silent when you see a problem in certain situations, no matter how much you want to insert your opinion into it.
There needs to be a caveat on this silence, though. This past week has also seen a prominent figure in sports being fired for being silent, when his words to the right people could have prevented something terrible. We should all take notice that it is our responsibility to speak up when we are aware of a bad situation and can help prevent further sinful activity.
What I’m referring to is those little slights that happen day to day, things that will not matter in eternity. This is where this mum’s-the-word philosophy is best used.
If a negative comment on a minor issue will discourage someone, or get in the way of a greater goal, mum’s the word for you. If your teenager is wearing something not immodest, but surely not what you would pick, mum’s the word. Your neighbor has the tackiest holiday decorations in town? Mum, again. Your husband left his socks on the floor, again? Yup, mum’s the word. At least 9 times out of 10, I’m thinking.
Of course it’s important to help our family members figure out those things that annoy us and set them right, but every incident? Certainly not. Learn to choose your battles wisely. Timing may be all the difference between the response you want and a grumpy scowl, or worse.
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Sometimes it seems I’m slow to figure out that I was too quick to speak!
My flowers are quiet little fellows. That’s one reason I enjoy being with them so much. Be enjoyable! Mum’s the word.