This is the sixth post in a series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here.
Foot-in-Mouth Disorder: A common disorder found in anyone possessing a working mouth, characterized by the imaginary sensation that something is lodged in their mouth after they say something inappropriate or erroneous to another person.
- Irrepressible talking
- broken verbal filter
- loss of friendships
- feelings of guilt
Foot-in-mouth disorder can manifest itself at any time during the life of an individual, especially if it goes untreated. Even with a well-treated individual, Foot-In-Mouth disorder will occur, especially when tired, intoxicated, medicated, foggy, irritable or suffering from dementia or Alzheimers.
What causes the most offense between Christians?
Written words. Spoken words. The tone of words.
Words, words, words…
Well-intended messages are often destroyed by the delivery. Malicious meaning may be masked by smooth speech. Blundering lips can crush a spirit. If you are suffering from Foot-In-Mouth disorder, the following phrase needs to be your focus: It is more important to hear than be heard.
There are 3 things that are important when speaking (or communicating in any form):
- What you say.
- How you say it.
- Why you said it.
Any time you prepare to speak, type or write, those three things need to be considered.
The following passage discusses the gravity of what we say:
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
~ James 3.5-12, ESV (emphasis mine)
It almost sounds impossible to control our mouths, doesn’t it? It’s similar to a chronic disease. Even if it is monitored and managed, it lies below the surface and will rear it’s ugly head if we are not vigilant. How do we treat this disorder?
Three Practical Remedies to Foot-in-Mouth Disorder:
Train your mind (heart)
This first point is the most critical and the other two will certainly fail apart from it. Notice this segment from the above passage: “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
Think of your heart as though it is a well of water—the only source of fresh water on your property. If someone asks you for a glass of water, you are going to give them water from that well. If the well is polluted with arsenic or chemicals, the results will be lethal even with a half-way decent filtration system. So it is with our words. If our mind and heart are full of toxic material—cuss words, impurity, malice, envy, greed, etcetera—then those things will spill into our speech. Smooth words cannot completely conceal ill-intent. A perceptive person will detect it.
Our heart is the source. Maintain the purity of the source and the output will be pure as well.
It is critical that we meditate on good things and do regular checkups on our mind and heart. What are we thinking about? What are we watching? What are we listening to? Are we processing things according to God’s way or society’s? We need to train our minds to think like God which requires reading and meditating on the Bible.
Run through scenarios
Law enforcement officers and military personnel are trained to run through mental scenarios of possible situations in order to prepare themselves for what they should do. An officer may play out this scenario:
I’ve just pulled over an beat-up van with purple limo-tinted windows. The driver was going 90 mph. In the rear view mirror, I can see the driver is fidgeting nervously with something. Suddenly the door flies open and I see what definitely looks like a gun. What do I do?
Well, I need to make sure when I walk up to vehicles—especially suspicious-looking vehicles—that I have my hand ready to draw my pistol. I need to make sure I always wear my vest on duty so I have a better chance of surviving an attack. First, I’ll draw my pistol and shout for him to drop the gun and put his hands over his head. If there isn’t immediate compliance and I see the suspect raise the gun to shoot I will fire. I’m not going to keep asking the suspect to comply. If I don’t neutralize the threat with my first shots, I had better go for cover, first behind the van and then behind my patrol vehicle in case there are more people in the van (since I can’t tell if there’s more people inside) and it’s imperative that I get on the radio and call for backup as quickly as possible.
Now, in today’s society, that may seem like a horrible thing to do (shoot immediately), but what most civilians fail to comprehend is that time is limited. Officers don’t often have more than a half second to make decisions, so they have to prepare their minds for action. I have seen the videos of cops practically begging for people to drop their weapons and it rarely ends well for the cop. They know that they need to decide, long before such a deadly scenario, when and how to use the tools at their disposal.
Our mouth can be as deadly as a pistol. It’s important to mentally rehearse how you will respond if someone asks you about certain topics. In the scriptures we are encouraged to “always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within [us]…” In order to be effective in that regard, we have to run through what we will say in various situations. You’d be surprised how often people will ask the same question in different words.
“Why are you a Christian?”
“How can an intelligent person like you believe such nonsense? You must not be as smart as I thought.”
“You don’t believe in science, do you?” (That one always makes me laugh… especially as one who loves science.)
“What about the Crusades?”
“Why are there so many different denominations?”
“Didn’t you know that the Bible is plagiarized from the Greek and Babylonian stories?”
Have you ever thought about what you will say if someone puts a gun to your head and asks if you are a Christian? What should you say (or not say) if your coworker comes prancing in declaring their decision to be a woman instead of a man? What do we say when our spouse asks us about money? Do we snap or do we discuss?
Practice “The Pause.”
I told my 8-year-old to practice waiting at least 2-3 seconds before speaking after someone is done talking. She has the unfortunate habit of blurting things out before someone is done talking—especially when she’s excited. I keep telling her to count to 3 in her head before speaking.
Mentally taxing discussions may require us to simply pause (without counting) and consider our words before speaking. I don’t think I could count to three and effectively compose a rebuttal. One great aspect of writing versus speaking is the ability to edit. When speaking, one cannot edit what has already been said. It’s a done deal.
Practice the pause. Consider what you’re going to say before you say it.
We would have far less trouble in the church if we would guard our mouths. Less division and infighting would occur if we would use our words with love. (Note: loving words also include rebuke! Letting things go is not loving. When admonition or rebuke are needed, much prayer and thought are required beforehand!)
Ask the Lord to help you watch what you say.
Train your mind.
Run through scenarios.
Practice the pause.
Repeat—until this life is over.