“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil” (Psalm 143:3-4).
From the President down to the man in the street, public conversation has become nasty, and it’s been deteriorating for many years. President Clinton made popular the phrase “the politics of personal destruction,” but it goes farther back, to attacks on Judge Robert Bork.
Over 10 years ago in Duluth, Minnesota, “nastiness was becoming the norm, preventing well-intentioned people from coming together to solve problems. Duluth decided to do something about it. Civic leaders launched something called Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project. They drew up a list of nine guidelines for civilized debate so simple they could and did fit on a wallet card. The, a funny thing happened. People took the idea to heart.”
The nine guidelines: “Pay attention, listen, be inclusive, don’t gossip, show respect, be agreeable, apologize, give constructive criticism, take responsibility.” (WSJ, July 31; A4). You can find every one of those guidelines in the Bible. Among other passages: Matthew 5:1-16, 21-22, 33-37, 43-48 and James 3. Today’s Minute can be a Bible study.
“With (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:9-11).
Now should be the time to buy stock in Ivory soap. When we were kids, Mom threatened to wash our mouths out with soap whenever our talk was nasty, and I recall two times when she hauled me to the bathroom and did it. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).