Tuesday’s Tip: “Oh be careful little mouth what you say”

Before leaving for work this morning, my husband had a chat with our kids about their words and tones-of-voice, specifically in talking to me. I have great kids; truly, I do. Still, they are testing their boundaries. Unfortunately, kids (and adults) don’t come pre-programmed to behave perfectly, or correctly. As parents, it’s our job to train them up and share with them correct behaviors, responses and actions. Active parenting with loads of GRACE heaped on top.

A few months ago, my husband and I co-taught a sermon series on the book of James (one of my most favorite books in the Bible) at our church. I was slated to teach the sermon for James chapter 3, focusing on “Taming the Tongue”.

Children participate in our church’s worship gatherings. Over lunch after church, my son surprised me! Thinking he hadn’t been paying attention during the sermon, I began to test him to see if he was really listening and engaged. To my surprise, he shared nearly every point that I had made in the message.

To this day, he continues to talk about the tongue being poison and how words are like weapons.  And these analogies have become a great teaching tool, especially when either my husband or myself needs to talk with the children whenever they’ve said something hurtful. To be honest, it has been beneficial for me, too.

There is a great Jewish folktale called “The Tale of the Pillow”. The premise of the story is:  you can’t talk about people without it having lasting results to all involved. The man who was gossiping and slandering about others went to his rabbi, asking for forgiveness. The rabbi told him to go and get a pillow, but not just any ole pillow, specifically a FEATHER pillow. (Now, my grandmother used to make me feather pillows and they were STUFFED with thousands upon thousands of feathers.)

Well, the man brought the rabbi the feather pillow, and the rabbi told him to cut it open. The man knew that the feathers would go everywhere. Of course,  they did. They were carried by the wind to and fro and flew all over the place. The rabbi told him to bring back all the feathers. However, the man knew this was impossible. To which the Rabbi replied,

“Yes,” said the rabbi and nodded gravely, “that is how it is: once a rumor, a gossipy story, a ‘secret’ leaves your mouth, you do not know where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind and you can never get it back!”

Pretty convicting, isn’t it? After re-reading this story myself,  I have an even greater picture of how words can impact others to a greater degree than I could have ever imagine, especially in the heat of the moment. Growing up, I always heard, “If you can’t say something nice, it’s best to not say anything at all.” Sadly, after saying something that was probably better left unsaid, I find myself responding, “Did I say that with my OUTSIDE voice?!”

As a child, my mom taught me a song, “Oh Be Careful”.  Throughout my life, music and the lyrics assist me in learning and internalizing spiritual truths, no matter how simplistic. Actually, the simpler the better. The song goes like this:

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say

Now more than ever, I have come to realize, my words, actions, and responses, even my tones-of-voice are fully displayed for my children. Imitated by them into a sort of “Mini-Me” fashion. Reproduced like a reflection or recording of what they have seen or heard. I am their model.  What is it that I want them to replicate? What do I want them to take away from their time spent with me? I better get it together.

As a Christian, I realize my behaviors are being seen by my God, my Savior. My Christian faith is not about following a list of rules and regulations, it’s about a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. Earnestly seeking to become more and more like him. For this reason, it is my prayer that I can be more like him: showing more grace, more compassion to myself and to others; being more patient; understanding not everyone is like me (boy, isn’t that good!); and realizing that things aren’t always as they seem. Therefore,  I shouldn’t always feel the need to express myself before knowing the whole story. Even then, it is very wise to keep my mouth shut, or my ears closed, especially when others are talking and sharing about someone else.

I’ve got such a long ways to go. I don’t know about you, but this chic is still in process, totally imperfect, with much to learn and many rough edges to smooth away. The following is a passage I need to read, re-read, memorize and internalize.

James 3: 1-12

Taming the Tongue

1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.


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2 responses to “Tuesday’s Tip: “Oh be careful little mouth what you say”

  1. Wonderful Jada!

  2. I truly enjoyed reading this. What a great reminder to us all! Thank you!

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