Regrettable Words: Spoken and Unspoken

Regrettable Words: Some Spoken, Some Suppressed
by Dr. Steven J. Callis

Have you ever uttered a statement, only to immediately regret that it passed your lips?  My email provider includes a feature that allows 30 seconds to “undo” a sent message.  Oh, that we had such a feature in the human body, but we all have learned the difficult lesson that something spoken cannot be unsaid.

Myron Augsburger wrote, “Words spoken prematurely cause extended damage.  Harsh words wound; critical words destroy.  Once words are spoken they cannot be recalled and we cannot be free from the responsibility of having made the statement.”

An unfortunate illness among young children is Hoof and Mouth disease.  In later years, that malady becomes “hoof IN mouth” disease.  The idea of putting a foot in one’s mouth actually did originate in the 1870’s and the deadly virus among cattle that was called “Hoof-and-Mouth.”  A fancier term for the slip of the tongue is faux pas, a tactless statement made in a social situation.

In a less innocent scenario, one may be guilty of hurling a cruel insult or criticism towards another person.  Often the critic may feel some amount of remorse later, but the damage is already done.  No amount of regret, and no act of restitution, will enable the victim to unhear what was said –genuine repentance is a huge step in healing the relationship, nonetheless.

While the words cannot be unsaid, there is still the possibility of making it right with the other person.  On the other hand, there is no recourse for words that have been suppressed for too long.  Garth Brooks sings the question, “If tomorrow never comes, will she know how much I loved her?” How will they know if we do not demonstrate our love and verbalize it, as well?

The Bee Gees released a song as a single in 1968 titled, “Words.”  The lyrics include this line: “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.”  The gist of the song is that words can make a person happy or make a person sad.  I would contend, however, that words unspoken can do neither.

You and I are responsible for the words we speak, and for the words we suppress.  Using the adage to look before you leap, let us add that one should think before speaking.  The apostle James wrote in a letter recorded in the Bible’s New Testament, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”  We must speak words that bear meaning and purpose, because words flow from the abundance of our heart.  And if we are truly thinking about our words and their purpose, we will not suppress those expressions that our loved ones need to hear.

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