Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Things have been a bit rough recently at work. The opportunity to spill out with angry words in response to the actions or even perceived actions of others seems to know no end. Let’s just say it has been a target-rich environment of late with plenty of opportunities to practice wisdom with my tongue. Unfortunately, I have tended to behave in what Scripture labels foolishness rather than wisdom.

It is truly a difficult thing to think before you speak. Blurting out the first thing that comes to our minds is all too often the modus operandi of how we relate to one another. This is especially true in the heat of the moment, especially during those times when we have reached what we believe to be our wit’s end.

Admit it. We all have that annoying supervisor, co-worker, family member, or that individual that never demonstrated by the car salesperson what that wonderful thing called a turn signal is all about. We should also all admit (I have my hand raised) that our response to such individuals is typically an unrighteous, foolish retort, something that seems to be a clever quip but is nothing more than utter and shameful foolishness.

What does this tendency towards foolish behavior reveal in our lives? According to Proverbs 29:11, the fool gives vent to all his feelings. What does it mean to vent or utter all one’s feelings? The answer can be found in the Hebrew verb yatsa, which means “to go out or go forth.” The association of this specific verb with plants and planting is of particular interest. If we think about this for a second, the idea of emotional responses being something that germinates within our hearts which then sprouts forth from our mouths, should make perfect sense. Uttering forth all your feelings foolishly is a practiced behavior that has its source in foolishness being rooted in your heart. Foolish responses are like weeds that sprout immediately from spiritually untilled soil.

The wise have a grasp of how to control their tongue. When we dig a bit into some word meanings, the wise response becomes ever more apparent. The Hebrew verb ” stills or keeps ” is shabach, meaning “to soothe, still, stroke.” The idea of calm and self-control is quite clear. Furthermore, when pondering their response, the wise think of more than just the heat of the moment. They think of afterward, specifically the impact and consequences of their words. This brings a whole new meaning to the old adage “think before you speak.”

So the next time you are tempted to lash out in anger, please keep Proverbs 29:11 in mind. It is many times far wiser to zip the lip than to foolishly let whatever comes to your mind slip out from your lips. Is being wise in this area of your life difficult? You bet it is! Is it vital that we grow in wisdom in this area of our lives? You bet it is! Perhaps this is why we should constantly be in a posture of prayer, constantly washing ourselves in the cleansing water of God’s Word, and always consuming the life-giving power of God’s Word. As we absorb what it means to be wise as outlined in Scripture, the Holy Spirit will till the soil of our hearts, uprooting the foolishness that often results in diarrhea of the mouth. We must grow in this area of life as foolish words are like sharp barbs that tear apart and destroy relationships. Be wise and ponder your words!

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