What's On Your Tongue?

 I know firsthand the fine line one often has to walk when it comes to communicating with others. Words, phrasing, context - it's something akin to tiptoeing through a mine field. Since verbal communication is arguably still the most important way we interact with others (despite the overwhelming popularity of tools like Facebook, Twitter, and...oh yes...Blogger), it's often the hardest to navigate peacefully. All too often, we open our mouths and subsequently find ourselves victims - or perpetrators? - of unkind speech. We never meant to say that...or did we?

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness," the famous actress Audrey Hepburn once said in a long dialogue summarizing how to be a beautiful woman. I find it interesting that she got the whole thing rolling with a adage on how to properly use the words sitting on the tip of your tongue. At its heart, Audrey's suggestion was more than a feel-good, look-better-by-being-nicer, pop-culture-morality quip. Instead, it almost directly mirrored a characteristic of one of the Bible's most famous characters: the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. 

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
{Proverbs 31:10}

Substitute "woman" for "wife" in the above verse (because to be a virtuous wife, one must first be a virtuous woman), and it's immediately apparent that Proverbs 31 isn't just the go-to chapter for wives and homemakers-in-waiting. It's a set of guidelines for every daughter of the King who wants to live to please her Heavenly Father and shine as a light in this very dark world. (If Proverbs 31 is a new one on you, then take some time here and now to read verses 10-30. Go ahead. The rest of this post will still be here when you're done, I promise.)

I've known about - studied - the virtuous woman for years, but recently one of her characteristics - the one Audrey Hepburn mentioned -  jumped out at me in a way I couldn't ignore.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.

Nope. Can't ignore it. If it said something like "She wants to say wise things and when she speaks she tries to say nice things that don't offend people," then I could just move on to verse 27 (which, incidentally, would also need a rewrite, since I can tell you down to the tiniest detail what the bread of idleness tastes like). But it doesn't say that. It doesn't mention trying, attempting, wishing - it talks about doing

"She opens her mouth with wisdom..." The heart of this kind of woman is so bent on seeking and applying God's wisdom to her life that when she opens her mouth, wise words practically fall out. She has intentionally focused on becoming wise - reading and obeying God's Word, interacting with older believers who share with her from their depths of godly wisdom gained by experience, etc. - and not without results. What's in her heart is coming out. And it's looking - errr, sounding - good. Her speech is reflecting the heart of a wise God.

"...and on her tongue is the law of kindness..." Notice that Solomon (the author of Proverbs) didn't say, "She tries to say kind things" or "She says kind things" or "On her mind is the law of kindness." No, indeed! First of all, kindness isn't expressed here as a wishful thinking process. This gal actually is kind. She actually says kind things to actual people in actual scenarios with actual results. (Getting the picture?) Her desire to be kind has made the trek from her head to her heart to her tongue.

Second, notice that what's on her tongue is vividly described as "the law of kindness." Now, when you think of the word "law," you probably think of police officers, the Ten Commandments, and court rooms. That's exactly the idea implied here. The virtuous woman has a tongue that's ruled by kindness, just as our roads are ruled (in a loose sense) by the police officers patrolling them. Hers is a tongue whose every word is dictated by the God-given laws that make kindness what it is: "of a sympathetic or helpful nature: of a forbearing nature: gentle: arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance : of a kind to give pleasure or relief" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). 

I don't know about you, but I get the message. God has a heart for women - and men and children - to be intentional about guarding their speech and using their words to bring Him glory. This includes everything from the obvious, like obscenities and their derivatives, to the subtle, like snapping back at another person or (*gasp*) gossiping.

Why don't you do what I'm doing: surrender your tongue to God's law of kindness and ask Him to control the words you say (Psalm 141:3)? Make a resolution to be the kind of person who opens their mouth with wisdom and has the law of kindness on their tongue. It's not easy, but you can depend on God to help you every step of the way. He is faithful!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.


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