I remember when I was about 3 years old, the neighbor’s little boy liked me (I think he was about 4 years old). One time he came over and knocked on the door to see if I wanted to play outside with him. I opened the door and said to him, “I only like boys who have black hair like my daddy,” then I shut the door.
When I think about that episode, I feel so badly for that little boy. Did he run home to his mother in tears? Was he emotionally crushed? There is a saying, “Out of the mouth of babes…,” meaning kids will say anything without considering the feelings of others— they can say things that might seem harsh or even “cruel” even though that is not their intention.
Some adults never grow out of this phase. They say things about people or to people without thinking about how their words will be received. The sad part is that some who do this are claiming to be Christians. The Bible is clear about how we should use our words: “Let your conversation be always full of grace…” (Colossians 4:6). In Hebrews 3:13 it says, “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”…”
Before any words come out of our mouths, we should ask ourselves this question: “Will my words build up or tear down?” If it is to “tear down” someone then bite your tongue and keep silent. If it is meant to build the person up, then be sure you say it with love (“…speak the truth in love…,” Ephesians 4:15).
There’s no reason why anyone should say hurtful things about people or to say hurtful things about them “behind their backs.” Ephesians 4:29 and 31 reminds us, “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them… Get rid of all … harsh words…” (NLT).
It’s not always easy to keep quiet or to say helpful things. I find that when I am overly tired or when I haven’t been reading God’s Word like I should, then I am more likely to say things that I will regret, but that is not an excuse.
No matter how tired or spiritually dry I am, I still need to have self-control—I can’t just say anything that comes into my mind, especially with words that will hurt someone else: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). All of us have to grow up.