“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”
Soiling the Lip
(Please read Psalm 141:3)
A couple of generations ago, there were many tobacco chewers, mostly men, and snuff dippers, including many women. You can imagine the sanitary problems with the habit in those days — and guess what vision leaps into the minds of some old-timers when they hear the song that includes these words: “Angry words! O let them never/ From the tongue unbridled slip;/ May the heart’s best impulse ever/ Check them ere they soil the lip.”
That imagery alone can help us hold back hot words, which seldom if ever do the hearers any good and never leave the speaker proud of himself. We don’t need to recall (that is, remember) every angry word, but a recall program, like those to get back and fix faulty cars, would be handy.
We may alibi by speaking of “righteous indignation,” as if our wrath is too exalted to be called what it is – but we should realize that it’s hard to convince anybody of anything if you make him mad first. Instead of helping a situation, angry words are likely to make the hearer even more irate.
If only we had instant “forward replay” buttons in our brains that would give us a preview and let us stop our words in time! We do! The songwriter called it “the heart’s best impulse.” That’s what David prayed for in our text: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” We need that to help us avoid using words which, if they soil our lips, will surely “soil the ear” of the victim.