“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19).”
About two months into kindergarten, our daughter Allison gravely told her mother and me that someone had swore on the bus. Had Allison been given the burden of disclosing the news of original sin, she would not have been any more somber.
As Allison’s father, I knew that we needed to process this with her, so I asked, “What exactly what was said?”
Allison said, “Well, I am not going to say the word, because it is a bad word; it was the ‘sw’ word.”
I racked my brain to figure out what the “sw” word was. I grew up on a farm and farmers can be pretty colorful in expressing themselves when loading livestock or getting a tractor unstuck. But, I couldn’t for the life of me think what the “sw” word might be. I did wonder if the word was one frequently used in livestock contexts. That was my best guess.
Finally, I just said, “Allison tell me what the ‘sw’ word is.” She whispered. “’Shut up.’ I was singing on the bus today and a kid told me to shut up.” She shared this only reluctantly and as though she expected a bolt of lightning to strike our house after she said it.
(We never have gotten to the bottom of why “shut-up” was the “sw” word. Keep in mind she was in kindergarten).
Jamie and I were relieved that it hadn’t been worse. We were also pleased that “shut-up” was a phrase Allison considered out of bounds, so we nodded solemnly, agreeing with our daughter that, even if one lived only in the company of sailors, “shut-up” should be considered unsuitable language.
Now having said that, what I want to tell you today is that there are times when you should use the “sw” word: “shut-up.” Indeed, you should frequently say, “shut up,” with particular emphasis and gravity. You might practice spitting it out a few times even as you read this. You can say it very rapidly. Or, you can draw it out making each word last several counts.
What is undoubtedly more important than knowing how to say, “shut-up,” is knowing who to say it to. And, the person to whom you should say direct it is yourself. So, when you practice saying “shut-up,” use a mirror. Squint your eyes a bit and say it to yourself. This is the point.
Proverbs 10:19 says. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.(Pr 10:19).” While, it’s not a good idea to tell others to “shut up.” There is a time to whisper to yourself: “Shut up!” Or, you can even say it aloud, so long as it is clear to everyone within earshot that you are directing the imperative at yourself.
Or, if you want to be more literally biblical, say to yourself, “hold your tongue.”
Where words are many, sin is not absent. Note to self: shut-up.
But, don’t stop singing. Even on the school bus.