"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" James 1:19
Just as we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23) and needed Christ to come along and bear our sins on the Cross to save us, we have each broken this cardinal rule of manners for speech, and with it, at one time or another in our lives, put our proverbial foot in our mouth. This is very easy to do, as we are each wired to talk. Communicating comes easy to us. Yet, our words can be used to tear people down or to build them up. It is extremely easy to tear people down --- to show them in a bad light, or to destroy their morale. However, to build them up takes a lot of time and effort. Just as it is extremely easy to bomb a City into oblivion and flatten it, but very difficult to build a thriving town from the ground-up, it is very easy to destroy the morale, reputation and credibility of an individual, but much harder to build people up. How easy is it to take a hammer and smash an exquisitely hand-crafted Rolex into smithereens...how much time and how much effort does it take for a watchman to build one from parts?
Unfortunately, words are like arrows in a quiver. Once you let one go, you cannot take it back, so be very careful about what you say to people. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason --- so we should listen more, and speak less. Lord knows I have made my share of blunders over the years and then regretted it later. Hence, back to what our parents taught us...if you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all.
"A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul." Proverbs 18:7
"The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool invites destruction." Proverbs 10:14
"An evil man is trapped by his rebellious speech, but a righteous man escapes from trouble." Proverbs 12:13
"He who guards his mouth protects his life, but the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." Proverbs 13:3
"The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool consume him." Ecclesiastes 10:12
Even more can be said about avoiding gossip. Here is a story I first heard from one of my Pastors years ago, but is also repeated here: https://moralstories26.com/short-stories-on-rumors-wise-judge/ I am summarizing for the sake of brevity:
"Once an old man spread rumors that his neighbor was a thief. As a result, the young man was arrested. Days later the young man was proven innocent. After being released he sued the old man for wrongly accusing him.
In the court the old man told the Judge: “They were just comments, they didn’t harm anyone.” The judge told the old man: “Write all the things you said about him on a piece of paper. Cut them up and on the way home, throw the pieces of paper out your car window as you drive. Tomorrow, come back to hear the sentence.”
The next day, the judge told the old man: “Before receiving the sentence, you will have to go out and gather all the pieces of paper that you threw out yesterday.”
The old man said: “I can’t do that! The wind spread them and I won’t know where to find them.”
The judge then replied: “In the same manner, simple words may destroy the reputation of an innocent man to such an extent that one is not able to fix it. If you can’t speak well of someone, rather don’t say anything at all.”
Moral of the Story: Let’s all be masters of our mouths, so that we won’t be slaves of our words. Don't blame anyone without knowing fact or truth. Your words may ruin someone's reputation without any fault of theirs....or even ruin their lives.