My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth (Proverbs 6:1–2).
Although the broader context of Proverbs 6 is about gambling or an immoderate use of money, I’m struck by those emboldened words in verse 2: ensnared by the words of your mouth. In context, it led to a hasty promise; in our everyday relationships, it spells relational discord, rancor, and isolation.
How many times have you either witnessed or heard one person “blow up” on someone else, resulting in such a relational breakdown that things were never the same again? “A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you can imagine” (Gilead, 6).
Proverbs—and the Wisdom Literature more generally—beckons us to exercise restraint in our speech. Proverbs 16:23 is one of my favorites: “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious.” Or: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge” (17:27).
O Lord, quell the verbal arsonist within us and among us. Give us self-control, restrain our mouths, and make our speech judicious.