There are many memories for the older generation of World War I even though the veteran ranks have thinned out due to their declining health and old age. But one of the remaining memories is a short slogan that was used by the Americans and the British – Loose lips, sink ships. Have you heard of this? It was on posters, leaflets everywhere, and the soldiers at that time were warned not to speak freely back home about what was going on in the war.
An official army memo contained 10 specific things soldiers needed to be careful talking about, and these words were added at the end of the memo. Loose talk is direct delivery to the enemy. If you come home during war, your lips must remain sealed and your written hand must be guided by self imposed censorship. Do you want your buddies and your country to pay the price for you showing off?
You face the battlefront, it’s not enough to ask you to face this home front. Remember that loose lips might sink ships. It was a straightforward message. Their careless talk might undermine the war effort.
Being aware of unguarded talk, it seemed to me thinking about that phrase – Loose lips sink ships – that there’s a lesson for us today, not in terms of the war or enemies, but in our own personal lives. I think there’s a warning here about our talking. If you can’t watch what comes out of your mouth, you’re going to hurt someone. I have a feeling that each of us have been guilty of saying those things that have been inappropriate or hurtful. Now it’s too late to take it all back. We might have been foolish and unwise in that cutting remark or response that just popped out of our mouth.
In one episode of Seinfeld, George is complaining about someone to Gerry, and Gerry said to him, “Why don’t you just tell him how much this upset you, George?” And he said, “I’m much more comfortable talking about someone behind their back than to their face.” Well, that’s a fairly typical problem. Often we don’t have the courage to speak directly to people and our talk ends up being gossip. The Bible has some excellent teaching about the way to use our words.
Proverbs 18:2 in the Old Testament, says a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Now there’s nothing wrong with expressing your opinion as long as you understand that not everyone will agree with you. How gracious are you and to others who have a different opinion to you?
We need to be careful here because God’s word says in Proverbs 29:11, a fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Yes, sometimes it’s better not to respond and say nothing. Arguments would cease. Stress would decrease if only we had the wisdom to know when to be quiet in order to know what to say, when to say it, how to say it. Let’s remain quiet and ask God for his love and patience, to fill our heart and for his wisdom to be ours in that situation.
Think about the pain and heartache that you might have caused somebody else because you felt it was time that they got what’s coming to them. You could well be a fool. As the Bible verse says. Isn’t it better to pray about the situation and let God, the Holy Spirit give you some other solutions? Instead of inappropriate words? Our feelings can get the better of us. And when we see what’s happening, the best thing is to hold your tongue. You don’t have to say everything right now.
There’s a time to hold back speech to yourself, and there is a time to talk. Wise people know what to do before speaking and when to speak. But fools, they spill everything out without preparation or thought. And this doesn’t mean that you avoid conflict or run away from it. But to ask God for his answer. Lord, how should I handle this person today? I’m not handling it very well on my own. It was the psalmist who got it right in Psalm 141:3 – set a guard over my mouth. Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.
Solomon, in the Old Testament said. There is a time for everything. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. But knowing the right time requires discretion and prudence because your words reveal your heart, the things you say and how you say them expose and unveil the condition and attitude of your heart. I doubt that many people realise this. If they did, they would be more careful about what they said and how they said it.
Lord, sometimes it’s easy to be careless with our words, to say the first thing that comes into our mind without thinking about you or what we should say. Help us to be careful, Lord, and to communicate only positive things, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.