Leadership, Words

Three Questions to Ask Yourself When You Say Something You Regret

By Shannon Reese

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Do you ever say something you later regret? For me, it happens more often than I want. 

It’s too easy to say something that makes someone else look bad. It’s too easy to gossip, sharing something that’s not mine to tell. It’s too easy to speak with anger at someone because I’m having a bad day. It’s too easy to throw out hurtful words when someone else is in the wrong. 

But easy doesn’t make it right. 

As Christian women leading, our words have power.

  • Our words can build or demolish. 
  • Our words can comfort or condemn. 
  • Our words can promote health or cause pain.
  • Our words can be helpful or hurtful.
  • Our words can bring truth or deceit. 
  • Our words can nourish or deplete.
  • Our words can offer kindness or contempt.

As Jesus was leading His disciples, He said,

For there is no good tree that bears bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree that bears good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45, bold mine)

I’ve been a follower of Jesus for decades and still I regret some of the words that come out of my own mouth; they catch me by surprise. You see, these types of words are a result of something deeper going on inside.

…for her mouth speaks from that which fills her heart…

When I say something I regret, what’s really going on in my heart? 

  • Are my words malicious, angry or bitter? Maybe there is someone I need to forgive. 
  • Are my words arrogant or proud? Maybe I need to become less and lift someone else up. 
  • Are my words envious? Maybe I need to express gratitude and choose contentment for what I do have. 
  • Are my words self-centered? Maybe I need to find someone to serve.

As the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of Jesus’ words, I find myself confessing my sin and turning toward the open arms of my Father. Forgiven, I start a new hour or new day in which my words can

  • Give life. The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain… (Proverbs 10:11)
  • Encourage. The words of the godly encourage many… (Proverbs 10:21)
  • Help. The lips of the godly speak helpful words… (Proverbs 10:32)
  • Last. Truthful words stand the test of time… (Proverbs 12:19)
  • Heal. Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)
  • Instruct. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. (Proverbs 31:26)

James, in his letter to Jewish believers, describes how difficult and necessary it is to tame the tongue. He uses a bit, a rudder, and a spark to paint a picture of something small that has the power to direct something much larger. 

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. (James 3:3-5)

James reminds his readers that, like the bit, the rudder, and the spark, the tongue has power. He also reminds us that there is an external force directing the horse, the ship and the forest fire: namely a rider, a captain, and an igniter.

The question we have to address is this: who is directing the tongue? Who is controlling the words that come from our mouths?

We are. We control our tongue.

But Who controls us? 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26, bold mine)

When we, as believers, submit ourselves to the power of God’s Spirit working in us, we walk in step with His Spirit which produces good fruit consistent with His character. In turn, we are known for the healthy words we speak, rather than the harmful words we spew.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. When I say something I regret, what’s really going on inside my heart? (Take your questions and assessment to the Lord. Then submit yourself again to the Spirit of God at work in you.)
  2. Who have I wronged with my words? How can I make it right? (You may need to ask forgiveness from the one you have wronged to make things right.)
  3. When it comes to the words I speak, what type of reputation do I have among those I lead? What needs to change so I will be known as a person who speaks words of life?

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