On a gray slate tombstone at a country church in England, an inscription reads,

“Beneath this stone, a lump of clay lies Arabella Young, Who on the 24th of May began to hold her tongue.” (Chuck Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life) Poor Arabella. She waited too long to muzzle her mouth, to zip her lip.

Leaders can use their mouths, their tongues to give life or to kill. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Proverbs 10:11) Depending on how a leader uses their tongue, they can bless or destroy another person.

The tongue can be used destructively to lie. “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19) “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:23) Lying, whether out of a desire to be cruel or a desire to manipulate people, is inherently destructive. It can quickly become a habit. Wise were the words of Thomas Jefferson who said, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time till at length it becomes habitual."

More often than not, words become destructive when they’re spoken without thought. A number of Proverbs has to do with restraint.

Proverbs 13:3, “Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives; those who open wide their lips (or, speak rashly) come to ruin.” In other words, watch what you say.

Proverbs 15:28, “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.” The best way to guard your mouth is to think before you speak. Before your lips start moving, think about what you'll say. Are your words accurate or exaggerated? Kind or cutting? Necessary or needless? Wholesome or vile? Grateful or complaining?

Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.” An English proverb says, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see someone who is hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than for anyone like that.”

If Arabella Young had access to a Bible, she neglected the wisdom of Ephesians 4:29, “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.”