When you guard your speech, you take a giant leap forward in spiritual maturity.
We singles have fewer checks on us than married folks do, but that doesn't mean we're free to leave a path of pain in our wake. In fact, we need to constantly police ourselves. That takes self-discipline.
It's easy to shoot your mouth off, so easy millions of people do it every day on social media. Christians should know better. If we're serious about loving Jesus, we simply must guard our speech at all times.
Let's look at the benefits for you in doing that.
Some of you may be thinking, "Yeah, but he said…" or "She said…" Really? Really? Here's what the Bible says:
"Christian brothers, never pay back someone for the bad he has done to you. Let the anger of God take care of the other person. The Holy Writings say, 'I will pay back to them what they should get, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19, NLV)
Social media feuds spiral out of control when we fail to guard our speech. We need to learn from the childish examples of celebrities and politicians. They may be doing it to gain publicity, but we live by a higher standard: the Word of God.
The same rules apply in face-to-face conversations. Think before you speak, especially when you're angry. Once you let hurtful words slip out, it's too late. People remember the pain you caused them, not your apology. Save yourself and them by not saying the malicious thing in the first place.
This is a matter of having respect for the other person's feelings, even if that person has verbally attacked you. The Bible verse above counsels us to let God handle it.
Just as all actions have consequences, so does all speech. It's easy to be critical of another. That's our sinful nature talking. When we guard our speech, we step up to a higher plane. We choose to build people up rather than run them down.
Every teacher knows students need to be encouraged, not belittled. We are all students of life. Some of us have learned lessons earlier than others; that doesn't make us superior. We have no right to be condescending, but we have a duty to be encouraging.
Giving someone an honest compliment is godly behavior. It reflects Jesus's Golden Rule. Everyone is looking for hope. Building another person up is like watering the tiny sprout of hope growing in their soul.
Christians, of all people, should be encouragers. We honor our Savior by how we guard our speech. Fault-finding Christians reflect badly on Jesus. They affirm nonbelievers' misconception that our faith is condemning. When we praise other people, our example makes the faith attractive.
It's not selfish to feel joy when you speak well to another. It's right to enjoy obeying God. Helping another person feel better about himself or herself makes you feel better about yourself at the same time.
Kindness is a rare quality in today's world. We need more gentle, thoughtful people. You can be one of them.
If there's one thing we singles excel at, it's beating ourselves up. During our never-ending self-talk, we evaluate our actions, judging ourselves positively or negatively. Unfortunately, most of us err on the side of negativity.
We deem ourselves ugly or clumsy or stupid or any of dozens of harmful ways to explain away our unhappiness. Ironically, our reasons turn into blame. This ongoing self-criticism causes us to be miserable.
We need to guard our speech to ourselves just as tightly as our speech to others. You do have a choice in your mental evaluations. We Christians need to rewrite the Golden Rule to say "Do unto yourself as you would do unto others." We owe ourselves the same kindness and compassion.
Recognizing when you're going off the rails can be hard. It usually follows a pattern going back years. We get a less-than image of our self then build up evidence, like a prosecutor going after a criminal.
But you're not a criminal. You're a child of God, a brother or sister of Jesus Christ. You are saved by his blood at Calvary and you're on your way to heaven.
God loves you, and you need to remind yourself of that every day, especially on the bad days. Resist the habit of running yourself down. Remember how God sees you. His opinion is the one that matters. Come to agreement with his opinion of you, because God is never wrong.
This is another of those issues that took me years to change in my own life. It may take you years as well, depending on how deeply entrenched old habits are. But it's crucially important to your well-being and your walk with Christ.
It comes down again to trusting God. When you're tempted to snap back at someone or say something destructive, put the brakes on. Remind yourself of the painful consequences. Remind yourself you want to be a better person. Remind yourself, finally, that God can be trusted to protect you and deal with the situation.
The Christian life is about being saved then walking in obedience daily. It's not easy. You can't do it on your own; that's why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live inside you. When you become sensitive to the Spirit's promptings, he will warn you before you hurt someone with your speech.
As you mature in faith, you come to understand you don't always have to defend yourself. When you're right with God, you're as right as you need to be.
With God's help, you can guard you speech. And you'll be much, much happier when you do.