When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. – Proverbs 10:19-21
“Loose lips sink ships”
In World War II this was a common reminder to those who were serving on naval vessels, especially when they were going into port. What we say can have devastating consequences.
This chapter of Proverbs begins a section where King Solomon draws a contrast between righteous and wicked living. I find it interesting that early on he tackles this problem of our words.
I have rarely found myself regretting not “speaking my mind.” But I have often wished words that I had spoken could be retracted. I may have hurt someone by sharing something that wasn’t necessary. Or worse, I just lost my head and launched into an emotional outburst. Either way, I didn’t follow this advice from Proverbs about restraining my lips.
Of course words aren’t all bad. Notice how he says the “tongue of the righteous is choice silver.” Silver has some wonderful qualities beyond just its appearance. Silver conducts heat and electricity quite well. Silver has a high monetary value. Our words need to be considered in the same light. Our words need to conduct heat or pull “heat” out of a situation, to be a calming influence. Our words should have a high value.
But we also need to make sure we know if we even should speak. To restrain our lips or not say anything is often better than giving a litany of our opinions. Speaking right off the top of my head and letting my emotions rule my tongue, usually results in causing considerable damage. Some of it can be long term. Words are dangerous.
In the Book of James we are instructed to guard our tongue. James says;
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. – James 3:5
Later on he calls our tongue a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” These are pretty descriptive words for us to ponder. Our speech reveals a considerable amount about our character.
The advice Solomon gives us here is really two-fold. One, keep your words to a minimum. Restraining our tongue may be the best thing for us. Second, when we do speak, treat our words like silver. Give them a high value and realize how powerful they really are. Can I bring a sense of calmness to this situation or am I just passing on gossip? Ask yourself the question, “Do I really need to say this?”
Loose lips do sink ships, but they also hurt people and it makes us look very foolish.