During WWII a warning became a part of our language. “Loose lips sink ships.” The message was often portrayed on stark colored posters with an image of a ship going down. It was a warning to all, both military and home front, that wayward words can have dire consequences. While the warning has become an idiom the message was very real. As goods and personnel moved across the oceans to support the war effort, enemy agents hoped to gain information to stop them. Loose slips could literally sink ships, and the person might be none the wiser. The book of Proverbs has a similar warning, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3, NASB95)
Let’s apply this generally and then more specifically to followers of Jesus. Many call this era the Information Age. Answers to our questions are a few keystrokes away. What’s a good pork recipe? Google it. What’s the weather outside, there’s an app for that. I wonder what Frank’s up to, check in on Facebook. Want to vent or complain than Tweet, Blog, or write a scathing review.
We as a society are overwhelmed with information and data. There are even some apps that promise to erase your message or photo forever until someone takes a screenshot and it lives forever anyway. We take more pictures than ever before and tag everyone in them. An unguarded or inadvertent word in the “loose lips sink ships” days had to be directly overheard, today a few words on Facebook or an email can travel the world.
To everyone regardless of stripe, creed, color, location, etc. remember – Loose lips sink ships. Think before you post, blog, tweet, email, message. Words spoken can sting, words written can wound immeasurable times.
As followers of Jesus, this warning goes deeper. What we say, post or tweet can have far-reaching effects. For good and for evil. Our restaurant conversation about an offense we suffered at church could sink the ship of someone’s faith. That family disagreement emblazoned in Facebook, Twitter, email or text could torpedo years of patient witness.
But more than that, we wound ourselves. While the Amerian idiom sees a misplaced word affecting a far off ship, the Proverb is closer to home. “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Our misplaced and wayward words affect us.
James relates words to the rudder on a ship. (James 3:4-5) Words tend to set us on a path, even one we want to avoid. Now, I’m not talking about somehow magically saying the right things and getting a new car. Our words can act as trail markers. Talk about how bad someone is long enough and watch as that relationship crumbles. Complain about your job long enough and watch as things go from bad to worse. I’m not saying we ignore problems, pains, and offenses, but that we see them as opportunities to pray.
Instead of posting, blogging, tweeting, talking, or texting about what is bothering us we should pray first. Pray for God to enter the conflict, relationship, or issue. Pray for the wisdom and grace to handle whatever it is in a way that honors Jesus. Pray for eyes to see the people and circumstance the way God does, uncolored by our emotions, history, and fear. Perhaps we do need to share our concerns, there is value in that. But we must always do so with wisdom and prayer.