Avoid foolishness: speak carefully

April 29, 2024
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by Shannon Caughey

Have you ever looked back on an interaction with someone and thought, “I should have held my tongue rather than saying what I said”? I have…far too many times. Whether it’s in a coaching situation or another area of life, failure to be careful with our words can bring harm to us and others.

In this series of devotions, we’re considering what Proverbs teaches about avoiding foolishness and instead pursuing wisdom. As we discussed in the last devotion, the Bible’s definition of a “fool” is someone who refuses to listen to God and live according to his design. Wisdom, then, is understanding practically how to live out God’s good purposes, including as a coach.

One of the repeated “foolish vs. wise” themes of Proverbs concerns whether we think before we speak. Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 18:6-7 emphasizes what happens when we use our tongue foolishly: 6 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. 7 The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.” How can you avoid this foolishness and instead pursue wise living and coaching? By implementing God’s good design for speaking carefully.

First, before you speak, consider the content of what you’re about to say. Is it accurate? Are you compromising what’s true, whether blatantly or through the more subtle falsehoods of exaggeration or withholding certain information? According to Prov. 12:22, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” Another content consideration is whether what you’re about to say helps others grow in wisdom—or whether it reinforces foolishness. Prov. 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Speaking carefully entails considering the content of what you say.

Second, before you speak, consider your motivation. Why are you saying what you’re about to say? Is it out of motivations that are often harmful—such as pride, defensiveness, or anger? Prov. 29:11 observes, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Prov. 30:32 gives this warning: “If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth!” If your motivation is not Christ-honoring, you should not say what you’re tempted to say. Speaking carefully involves considering your motivation.

Third, before you speak, consider the potential results of your words. Will your words be helpful or hurtful to those listening? According to Prov. 12:18, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Building on the wisdom of Proverbs, Ephesians 4:29 gives this command: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Even if you feel justified in what you’re about to say, if it harms others rather than building them up, it may not honor Christ to say it. Speaking carefully requires considering the potential results of your words.

To avoid foolishness in how you live and coach, develop the discipline of thinking before you speak. Use your tongue for God’s purposes. Not only will this rescue you from those “I should have held my tongue rather than saying what I said” moments, it will enable you to be a channel of the Lord’s blessings to others.

For reflection: If you have recently used your tongue in ways that were harmful rather than helping, confess this to the Lord and receive his forgiveness and grace. Ask him to help you grow in wisdom in how you speak.



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