Have you ever opened your mouth only to insert your foot in it so far that you develop athlete's bowel? You know you
have. We all have. We butt into a conversation … or worse, we initiate one … and somewhere
along the line we say something so stupid or thoughtless that we wish we could find a deep, dark cave where we will,
hopefully, get mauled to death by a bear. That way we eliminate the possibility of ever having to face the person or
(gulp!) people we said it to ever again! So, in the absence of said bear, what do you do?
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)
Have you ever heard the saying, “It's better to remain silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt”? Well, it's based in Biblical truth.
“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:28 (NIV)
And, there's another saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Well, to that one I say, and I quote the immortal words of Colonel Sherman Potter, “Horse hockey!” The fact is that words can hurt much, much worse than any physical injury and the effects can last much, much longer. Anyone who claims that careless words uttered by a loved one don't bother them is either a saint, a dim-wit or lying. And words have a tendency of resurfacing at the most inopportune times. Like, say, in the middle of an argument … when they can do even more damage.
“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of a fool blurts out folly.” Proverbs 12:23 (NIV)
The simplest answer that I can come up with to avoid these situations is, don't say or, Heaven forbid, write down any stupid or thoughtless things. Now, I know what you're thinking and you're right, it's inevitable. We are all destined to say things we shouldn't and have to deal with the consequences when we do. So, what then?
There's an acronym that I'm fond of; KISS … Keep It Simple, Stupid!
The answer really is simple. Apologize. That's it. Just, be humble and sincere, swallow your pride, say you're sorry and then commit yourself to not saying stupid things anymore. And I know what you're thinking now, too. You're thinking, but I already know that I might say something stupid sometime in the future. To that I say, I know … and so does the person or (double-gulp!) people that we need to apologize to.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
Here's the thing; when we say things that are thoughtless or stupid, we're, undoubtedly, saying them to people who are … well … people. Chances are good (I mean, really! It's like 100%) that they have said thoughtless and stupid things just like we have. And, hopefully, they've wanted to be mauled to death by a cave bear too. They may have even been in the position that they've needed to apologize to someone(s) too. Maybe even to you. And that's where the responsibility shifts to the person we've offended. If we are Godly men (or woman, as the case may be), we apologize … and mean it … and make an honest effort not to repeat our sin, or repent. Then it's up to them to forgive us.
“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)
See, we can only be responsible for what we can control. So, apologizing for an insult, or even a perceived insult … and yes, it's okay to apologize to someone even when we didn't do them wrong, trust me on this …, is as far as we need to go with it. At that point, the ball is in their court. They can either choose to forgive us or not. The responsibility is theirs to do the right thing.
“A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
Dont'cha just love The Book of Proverbs? Did you notice that each of the verses that I used in this column is from The Book of Proverbs? And, there are quite a few more verses in there concerning this subject. Why? Because the Lord knew that we're going to mess-up and do and say stupid and thoughtless … sinful … things. He gave us His Word, of which Proverbs is only one of the sixty-six books of the Bible, so that we will have everything we need to know about how to live happy and harmonious lives. But, like any other “owner's manual”, the Bible will only help us as much as we use it as a resource. In other words, we need to read and meditate on the Word of God in order for it to benefit us in any way what-so-ever. It's not going to do you any good sitting on the floorboard of your truck or on the shelf in the den. It needs to be, not only read, but shared daily. Sharing the Word with family, friends and brothers may give you insight that you might miss out on otherwise. Yes, we do need our quiet time, but we also need fellowship. Not just for our own spiritual growth, but for those who are coming behind us in the faith. We all have mentors, but we are meant to be mentors to others as well.
The Battle is on!
Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.