Our Speech Reveals Our Character

The words a man uses and the topics he favors in conversation yield a wealth of information about his interests and goals. The messages spoken between a husband and wife reflect the health of their relationship and demonstrate the level of their mutual commitment. Parents strive to build wholesome conversational habits into their children. Household rules ban certain phrases as well as sources that stream undesirable words to growing ears. Speech reveals character. Through his words a person displays to others what he’s like inside.

King David understood the importance of his words and struggled to speak rightly. He implored God for help in Psalm 141:3 (NIV), “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Picture a stream of words passing through a quality control inspection with God evaluating their content before they are permitted to become speech. Would that precaution reduce life’s conflicts? Someone wrote, “A lot of things are opened by mistake, but none so often as the mouth.”

The most-used key on my keyboard is the backspace with its power to erase sentences and correct typos. With printed work I can shape and reshape until I’m confident the words convey the intended message. Speech occurs in real time. Thoughts become sound waves, and they’re gone from us. No facility exists for editing or erasing spoken words. Words once uttered cannot be unspoken. The old adage rings true in carpentry or conversation, “Measure twice, cut once.”

When our guard is down any of us can release a flurry of explosive words. Our guilt and shame are immediate, and we wonder where that putrid speech originated. Jesus pulled back the curtain to let us see into the human heart. The scene in Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV) is graphic, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Speech originates in the heart. Words come from thoughts. Perhaps the precaution we need even more than guarding our mouths is to guard our thinking. David expressed that course of action in Psalm 19:14 (NIV), “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Proper speaking requires the right words propelled by the right thoughts.

What thoughts do I allow to free-range in the privacy of my mind? Paul highlighted the weight of a single thought in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Left alone to graze the lone thought grows stronger and harder to remove. It can become a predator controlling the stream of my speech. Wrong thinking generates more wrong thinking resulting in wrong speaking. The mind and the mouth are directly connected. Paul urged us in Philippians 4:8 to fill our hearts with wholesome food to promote healthy thinking.

Thoughts lead to words. Words reveal character. Character determines destiny. The question to consider is, “What is my speech telling others about me?”

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