There is no one who I know that wants to be called a “big mouth.” It conjures up ugly images and emotions in nearly every person. When a big mouth enters a room, all eyes roll in disgust. The bigger problem lies with the ears. It is impossible to stop hearing a big mouth in the same room. Deafness is the only consolation, but I find such a view too morbid, too dark. An even bigger problem ensues if the big mouth turns out to be me. All sorts of rationalizations float to the surface. “People like being around me. They laugh at my jokes and stories and always smile as I greet them.” At this point, a good friend needs to swoop in and help shed some much needed light.
King Solomon does not qualify as the much needed friend. He died thousands of years ago in case you did not know; however, Solomon did leave behind an astonishing array of wisdom with his Proverbs. This one sticks out like a sore thumb: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3, ESV). I think the second part of that verse could be translated as follows, “…he who has a big mouth comes to ruin.” In one sense, I think this has to do with remaining physically alive. In another sense, this pertains to remaining alive in one’s personal and professional spheres.
The first part of King Solomon’s proverb exhorts his readers to guard their mouths in order to preserve their lives. Opening my mouth out of turn about others or myself leads to much divisiveness. If I have a penchant for saying the wrong things, or the right things in the wrong way or at the wrong time, the consequences may be severe. In the workplace, having a big mouth could lead to being passed over for a promotion, being demoted, or even fired. No employer wants an employee who causes division, or exhibits an inability to watch his words. When it comes to friendships, one’s big mouth could be the reason for the lack of trusted companions and the corresponding loneliness.
Because the phrase big mouth is negative, I want to add a layer of complexity to this post. This time I will use the word outspoken. Webster’s dictionary defines this term in two ways: 1.) direct and open in speech or expression; and 2.) spoken or expressed without reserve. I fit both definitions of this word to a tee, hence the reason for exploring it. There are situations and places where it is important to speak up. Being silent will not be good for anyone. The reverse is also true as a different context may require silence. This is hard because silence might be perceived as assent by the person desiring to speak up. When do I speak or remain silent?
Well, once again, the issue comes down to self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. People and circumstances and/or situations will not cease to be trying or taxing upon me. Instead, they test my ability to exhibit self-control. You see, the character trait of being outspoken has much to commend it. Families, marriages, friendships, employer-employee relations and more need men and women who speak plainly, honestly, and with conviction; however, wielding my outspokenness like a kid carrying a toy gun has the potential to be every bit as ruinous as a big mouth. Reading and meditating over Proverbs such as today’s helps provide the soil for maturity to develop. Seeking the prayers and counsel of those who are wiser provide much needed support during hard seasons. All these practical steps help me to abide in the Lord for self-control.