Imagine seated beside someone with bad breath. I have been both. The one imagining and ‘the someone.’ Thank God as ‘the someone’ I was offered chewing gum almost immediately. As the person imagining, I have in some incidences endured, in some offered chewing gum and in others just fled. That is just about the mouth. There are cases where the person next to you has body odor. Maybe you have to sit there for minutes, hours or even every day. No matter the cause of the odor. It is hard to be in such an environment. In fact the first thing you want to do when you meet someone who hasn’t showered for a while is to give them a thorough shower. We have seen people being forced to shower. No one wants to be around bad odor.
Now imagine seated beside someone whose speech stinks, whose behavior produces bad odor. Imagine being with them for hours, for days; imagine living together. Two things might happen, you might end up stinking just like them or you might be frustrated and depressed because of the toxic environment. I have done the same, sometimes I have corrected, other times I have endured such environments and most times I have fled. The truth is, if someone’s speech is toxic, the environment gets a certain stench. We should not only take care of the breath, but the speech that comes out of our lips. Toxic speech kills. The word of God says that the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21)
A friend of mine cannot stand curse words. He cannot watch a movie with curse words. He tells people off. He once told someone ‘Hey, you are my friend but when you are around me, please don’t use that word. It is bad. You can express yourself without cursing’ wow! Right? That was some chewing gum right there. I asked him why he was so straight forward, he said. ‘Because If I get used to it, I will start using those words without feeling a thing’ he was very right. If you endure living near a stinking sewer for a while, you get used to it. You even wonder why visitors complain about the smell.
It is easy for us to sit and talk about people with bad breath. It is easy to talk about people whose speech is toxic. But today I would want us to reflect on our own breath. I don’t know how you do it, for me, I breathe on my palm and smell it. It works. What about words? How do we test that? By listening to ourselves in comparison to God’s word. Are people always giving you chewing gum when you speak so that you shut up. Are people always running away from you because they don’t want to hear what you have to say? Are people happy listening to you or are they enduring the stench?
Another verse that comes to mind is Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,” That our speech should add flavor to people’s lives. That people should get better through our words, that our words should bring peace, laughter, togetherness, forgiveness, kindness. Our words should make people’s lives taste better. Start with the person next to you now. Make their lives better through your words.
May the Lord help us all.