A wise sage once said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
It was probably your mom.
This saying is very much in alignment with scripture. Proverbs 17:27-28 states
“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”
I have been pondering this a lot. I believe it to be an awesome starting point. But I can’t help but ask myself - what if there’s more?
With Jesus, there’s always more. As long as we are on this side of eternity, there will always be more. There is no Christian version of nirvana to be achieved where we know everything we need to navigate this world.
So, lately, I have issued myself a challenge. The SAY ANYTHING challenge.
Say… what?! Anything?! Really?
Well, yes and no.
Unfortunately, one thing that is becoming very prevalent in our culture today is this concept of saying whatever we’d like.
If it offends: too bad. Don’t listen.
If it hurts: good. Then you need to hear this so you can toughen up.
If it makes you uncomfortable: Not my problem. I’m comfortable and that’s what matters to me.
Amazingly, another thing that is growing in our culture is an outcry for more empathy and for that empathy to be put to action.
The area where I am beginning to think that we are failing to make the connection is between speech and action. Empathetic communication leads to courageous and loving action.
So while I think the concept of withholding if you don’t have anything constructive to say is absolutely wise, what if it ran deeper?
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have the divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Though we live in this world, we are not battling flesh. Our weapons are in the spiritual realm and have the power to destroy the enemy’s tactical points of strength. We, as followers of Christ, uphold His banner of Truth over worldly wisdom. We hold every thought hostage because we love Jesus more than we love our own opinions or the thoughts of this world.
Eventually, those thoughts have to run dry, right? As a powerful adversary to our enemy, we have the ability of divine discernment which we receive through the Holy Spirit residing in us. Those thoughts that creep in cannot continue to return to us. We capture it and hold it under lock and key… it is wasting away in a prison… in a dank, medieval fortress situation.
We are not nurturing it. It’s not a pet that we crate and then take for a walk
It’s been eliminated as a threat. Eventually, those thoughts will attempt to overtake our minds and hearts less frequently but more subversively. Even so, we are still equipped. We are battle scarred and have established ourselves as a seasoned warrior against the thoughts of the flesh. Our experiences have wisened us and we are savvy to the tricks of the enemy. We don’t easily fall because we have the help of the Holy Spirit.
In this, we see Romans 12:2 come to fruition:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Your mind, your thoughts are being renewed and made more like that of Christ… and your mouth will reflect it.
So, what’s this challenge about then?
I’ve been thinking… I have been taking a defensive approach to these thoughts. What if I go on the offensive. I’m growing weary of battling surprise attacks to win ground in my heart and mind. They pop up when I’m driving, or when I get sassed by one of my kiddos, or while I’m on the phone with customer service and we are not seeing eye to eye on the charges on my account.
What does that look like?
Prayer: coming to the Lord every morning and surrendering our thoughts to him. Reign in my heart and my mind, Jesus and let it reflect in my communication.
Scripture: looking to verses like the ones above and more to bind our wandering hearts to Him. The Word is a tether, a lifeline that keeps our hearts and minds focused on the eternal.
Humility on the front and the back end: Speak with love and listen with empathy, and when we get it wrong (cause, oh man, don’t we though?)… apologize with love and humility.
I know that with my feet planted on this earth, before Jesus comes back to once and for all, rescue us from the effects of our sin, that I will never fully arrive. Even so, I will not let that prevent me from striving to be more like Him.
Editing your mouth is good. Even a fool is thought wise if they refrain. But let’s seek more - “if you can’t think anything nice, don’t think anything at all."
Or better yet-"if you can't think anything nice, pray about it until you can."
I want to let go of the ugly that I can conjure on a whim. I want to see every person around me in the light of glory. I am setting my sights high. I am aiming to reframe the norms in which a say anything culture means that anything we say reflects the heart and the love of our most gracious King.
Who is with me?
Ask the Holy Spirit to alert you to those thoughts that should have no room in your head or heart. If you struggle with a particular thought that you have trouble letting go, ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable. Finally, most of our ugly thoughts tend to be about other people - take the thought captive and battle it in the spirit: pray for that person and pray that God will reveal His heart for that person to you.
Have you ever experienced the freedom of conquering a recurring unkind thought? How were you able to move forward after that bond was broken and what would you say to someone who is caught in the same thought cycle. If you are being held captive by a particular thought and would like to turn the table, how can we pray for you? Be bold. Leave a comment below and let others pray for you.