I was having lunch with my buddies Paul and Matt today. At one point Paul said, “I think speech is a big problem.” Matt asked, “What are you talking about?” Paul said, “It seems like people don’t understand how much wreckage is wrought by their words. Freedom of speech is regarded as license to say whatever comes to mind without restraint or concern for consequences.” It became clear that Paul had been doing some reading and reflecting on the matter, because at one point he quoted someone as saying, “How great a forest is set ablaze by the destructive fire of unfettered speech! The tongue is an inferno! The mouth of man is a world of evil. The speech of homo sapiens stains everything; and most of our talk is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
After Paul’s comments we were all a bit bashful about saying anything. So we just sat in silence, eating our lunch, for approximately 3 minutes. I’ll admit, it was bit awkward, but after the first minute or so I found myself mulling over the substance of what Paul had shared, and I began contemplating a sustainable and constructive plan for my words moving forward. At a minimum, I thought about the value and wisdom of thinking before speaking; and saying what I meant, and meaning what I said.
Matt broke the silence by pulling out his phone and looking up a quotation from some old letter written by a deceased relative of his. Matt read the quote aloud, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Apparently our waitress had been eavesdropping on our conversation and awkward silence, because when she brought us the check she said, “Speaking is unhealthy when it is hasty, rash, continual, unseasonable, excessive, clamorous, senseless, prevaricating, quibbling, deceitful, slanderous, tattling, babbling, backbiting, detractive, reproachful, opprobrious, flattering, seductive, awakening groundless suspicions, railing, reviling, boastful, scornful, murmuring, egotistical, bitter, and resentful.”
I realize it’s only November 1st, but it’s the best lunch I’ve had all month!