How to Avoid Foot in Mouth Disease
Have you ever said something that you’ve ended up regretting? Sure you have. Me too.
And once it’s out there, you just can’t take it back. Words … words are such powerful things. A good word costs so little, but yields so much. A bad word takes such little effort, yet can destroy a relationship that’s taken a lifetime to build.
It turns out that not only will sticks and stones break our bones but names really will hurt us!
So – what are the 3 steps of avoiding foot in mouth disease? Here they are (in reverse):
3. Never write in an email that which you wouldn’t post on Facebook:
Talking behind someone’s back is just about one of the worst things we can do. It doesn’t really diminish them, it diminishes us. Gossip is like poison – and the person, ultimately, whom it kills off … is the gossiper, because people stop trusting us. They figure if that’s what we say about others behind their backs, what are we saying about them, when they’re not there.
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
So … simply don’t say bad things about bad people. Check the tongue. But that’s not always that easy, because our tongues so often run out of control. (James 3:1-8). So what’s the answer?
2. Never think something that you wouldn’t say to the person’s face:
It’s amazing how what we think is what we end up doing. To quote Joyce Meyer’s great line Where the mind goes … the man follows.
Just about everything you and I say and do, begins with a thought. Thoughts become actions. And so when you really annoy me and I start to want to think some bad things about you – destructive thoughts, angry thoughts, vengeful thoughts that will turn into actions (or inactions) that’ll ruin our relationship and diminish us both, I remember Paul’s advice as he sat in a dungeon on death row, and I put it into action sooner rather than later:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)
When I’m thinking bad stuff, I decide to think about good stuff – because while I’m thinking good stuff, there’s no room to think bad stuff.
1. Never allow something dark to fester in your heart:
Even deeper than our thoughts are our emotions. It turns out that our thoughts not only go outwards (into actions) but downwards, into our heart. Into that place where we live, that place where we feel things so deeply. Into that place where hurts accumulate and turn into hatred and vengeance … or sacrifice and love.
The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
Now, whilst I can actually choose what I think about, as determined and strong willed as I am, I can’t seem to control what I feel in my heart. Have you noticed that too? So I go to the only Person who can make a difference in that place:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me … the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:10,17)
It seems that when God changes our hearts, our thoughts are lifted up out of the muck … and what we say and do, more and more, reflects the Heart-Changer who’s been doing the heavy lifting for us on the inside.
It’s the only thing I’ve ever found that works. Jesus.