Who has not opened their mouth at the wrong time? For most, the taste of shoe leather is something familiar.

In today’s Bible class, I taught about James 3, where James instructions about the damage inflicted by careless speech. He says:

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:2)

Upon further reflection (always after the class dismisses), I realized we all need to heed two tests to mind our mouths.

The Toddler Test

If you want to know the conversation that takes place in the privacy of the home, it’s simple to discover. You don’t need a listening device because every family with a toddler has one.

Their ears are open to everything.

An innocent question opens a fountain of what mother and father said and how they said it. He or she is nothing more than an automatic recording device that takes in all. The purity of a child repeats what they hear, without malice and without meaning to “spill the beans.”

If you don’t want the child to repeat what you say, don’t say it. It’s a simple rule.

So before speak, think of a three-year-old standing in the room listening intently. Remember, a child will only repeat what he has heard without interpretation or window dressing. Then, take the same care when you open your mouth.

The Microphone Test

The second test comes from an experience I once had.

As a school advisory committee member, the school invited me to attend a school training conference. The speaker was excellent, and the information illuminating.

The time came for a break, and the speaker left to go to the restroom. In a few moments, an obnoxious scraping noise roared through the speakers. No one knew what it was.

It wasn’t long before the mystery came to light. The speaker had lost her microphone in the toilet. The noise all heard was a live microphone making its orbit around the bowl.

The moral of the story is never to speak with a microphone on. Everyone hears those conversations.

Most people speak as if no one will hear. Yet, to mind your mouth, you must treat every encounter as if it will be broadcast over a public announcement system for all to hear.

It gives one pause when one understands that principle. If you don’t want to face embarrassment, every conversation, each whispered aside, and every snide remark is relayed far and wide.

Never discount the power of words. They wield the ability to break or build. Before you speak, filter them through the tests. It can save you both from embarrassment to you and bruise to others.