For me, the most difficult struggle in discipleship is watching my mouth.
When I replay the events of the day in my head, my biggest regrets seem to be the unguarded moments when I offered an opinion or comment that was not necessary and could have possibly caused confusion or pain. Why did I need to say that? Did any good come of it? Or, was it something that needed to be said but I simply said it at the wrong time?
And the motivation of my words –Was I speaking, consciously or unconsciously, to benefit myself?
The struggle is real.
As I watched the reports of the terrorist attack in Paris roll in on social media, Twitter and Facebook in particular, I could not help but think that even though some leaders were expected to speak in response, most of us could have and maybe should have kept silent or expressed only words of sympathy. I saw many imprudent tweets and posts that generated heated discussion and discordance, too many of which came from Christian leaders.
Even if what is said is accurate and truthful, saying it at the wrong time can create discord and harm. It can also close minds to what ultimately may need to be said in response to tragedy.
In the movie Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey plays the comedian Andy Kaufman. In one scene where Andy is practicing transcendental meditation, he asks the guru: “Is there a secret to being funny?”
The guru answers: “Yes.”
And then after a pause, he says: “Silence.”
Of course, the point was about timing. Often it’s the silence that gives the punch line its power to make a person laugh.
And so it is with dialogue and truth-telling. The pregnant pause after a tragedy, after any conflict, can give power to our words when the timing is right.
All of this just reminded me of the need to be better stewards of our mouth. As James says, ” If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.” (3:2)
And, as another wise person said: “Dear Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!”