One of my favorite things Jesus ever said was, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Now, whether you find yourself leaning towards the camp of Christianity or more towards thinking “the Bible… Psssssh” you have to admit that what He said does make a good deal of sense. Seriously, think about it. The premise behind His remark is that our speech is motivated by something internal. Have you ever told someone, “I wish you would think before you speak”? Have you ever been told that? Of course the answer to both is yes, and sometimes we have moments brilliance where we do pause to reflect on what impact our words will have in the moment. However, those times where we just say something or respond instinctually to a given situation with our mouth… that speech is not random… it comes from somewhere.
The question then becomes, “If the words that come out of our mouth have an origin, what then produces them?” The short answer to this question is our character drives our vocal responses. Earlier in that Matthew 12 passage Jesus uses the fruit analogy in that trees produce specific fruit (good tree good fruit, bad tree bad fruit). Basically, if our natural response to situations is to say something negative, bitter, hurtful, or the like I am not going to say in a “matter-of-fact” sort of a way that is who we are, but maybe those tendencies are there in us. On the flip side, if our responses are filled with optimism, hope, encouragement, and the like then perhaps our character has been shaped to reflect such.
The overall challenge of this post is to take some time for internal perspective. Our thoughts and our attitudes are most assuredly reflected in our speech. Are we happy with the way we talk to, about, and around people? All of us could us improvement (especially me), and so what I am not saying is the answer is simply “if you don’t have anything nice to say blah, blah, blah.” What I am saying is that improvement starts with us changing our character, and then our mouth will follow suit.