Guard Our Mouths and Tongues!

Yael Eckstein  |  February 11, 2022

Man holding his hands up to mouth in a prayer position.

Those who guard their mouths and their tongues
    keep themselves from calamity.
— Proverbs 21:23

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

There is a story told about a man who went around slandering the rabbi of his town. After some time, he regretted his actions and turned to the rabbi for forgiveness saying that he would do anything to make amends. The rabbi told him to take a pillow, open it, and let the feathers scatter in the wind.

The man did as he was told and then returned to the rabbi. The rabbi said, “Now go and collect all of the feathers.” The man replied, “But that’s not possible!”  Then the rabbi made his point, “And so it is with words. Once they leave your mouth, it is impossible to retract them and who knows how far they will reach.”

We sometimes think that when we gossip and say derogatory things about people, we aren’t really harming them. The adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is not really true, is it? I’m sure, like myself, you can think of some harsh words said about you years ago that still sting. Naturally, we want to teach our children to be strong and not worry about what other people say about them, but our words do matter. And they matter a lot.

Guard Our Mouths and Tongues

Proverbs teaches us to guard our mouths and tongues. Think about that. “Guarding” something means that we are protecting it from damage or attack. It means that we are alert and aware to any danger. This means that we need to really think about our words. We need to stop ourselves when we even start thinking of saying something negative or hurtful.

Being careful about what we say is not only the right thing to do, but it also brings great benefit. When we guard our mouths and tongues and are careful about what we say, we will find that our relationships improve, people respect us more, and we become better listeners.

In the end, as the verse in Proverbs says, we save ourselves from trouble when we refrain from negative speech.

Your Turn:

Make note of times when you almost said something negative, but caught yourself. Recognize the benefits that come with guarded speech.