The Devil You Don't Say!

And Other Words to Eliminate

When I was a kid I used to watch a game show that started out with: "It’s not what you say that counts. It’s what you DON’T say!” For them it was a just catchy slogan, but honestly, can you think of a better rule to live by?

I certainly can’t. For one thing, if I had a credo like that maybe I wouldn’t be as prone to giving out so much unsolicited advice. And I wouldn’t be quite as tempted to pass along my latest "concerns” about a friend, which every female knows is just code for juicy gossip. I might not whine, or nag my husband as much. And who knows, maybe I could even cut back on some of those catty little remarks – the ones we southerners like to preface with "bless her heart” to soften the blow (as in, "Bless her heart, that last dye job looks like she colored it in with a Marks-a-Lot!”)

But of all the ways I could apply this new philosophy to my own life, the biggest (and oddly enough the smallest) would be to eliminate specific words from my vocabulary altogether. Now before you get the wrong idea about me, you need to know that I’ve never been much for foul language. I hate hearing it, much less using it. Still there are times, I confess, when something slips past my lips that shouldn’t. What brought this to my attention was a recent visit to my daughter’s house, when my four-year-old grandson parroted something he’d heard me say while watching TV one night. Yikes. I suddenly realized what a huge power of influence I have as a grandmother!

And speaking of a grandmother’s influence, I have the perfect illustration of someone who exemplified the very credo I’ve been talking about, and as a result has had a huge impact on me personally. Years ago, just after I got married, my new husband and I spent a weekend with his grandmother. It’s just my opinion of course, but I’m firmly convinced that there are some people who are…well, they just seem to be a little more "like the angels” than most of us, and Marc’s grandmother was one of those people. I don’t mean she was overly pious, or anything. She was simply a dear, sweet, wonderful "good Christian woman”; and just being around her made you want to be on your best behavior.

So anyway, when we arrived at her house just shortly before noon, Grandmother was right in the middle of fixing lunch. Eager to prove myself domestically, I quickly jumped in to help. Noticing a beautiful plate of deviled eggs next to the refrigerator, I said, "Would you like me to put the deviled eggs on the table?” Without even turning away from the stove she gently replied, "No, I’d like you to put the salad eggs on the table.”

I must have had a confused expression on my face because Marc winked at me and said, "At Grandmother’s house there are some words that just aren’t welcome. ‘Devil’ is one of them.” And that was that. She never made a big deal about it. There were no crusades or press releases. She had simply decided that one of the best ways to deny Satan access to her life was to refuse him access to her tongue. Brilliant!

And that wasn’t just an isolated incident. As long as I knew her, I never once heard her say anything even remotely ugly or unkind. (She did have one expression – "Well tush-a-mingo!” – that served a lot of purposes, but I hardly think you could fault her for that!) My point is that although the incident happened thirty-seven years ago, I’ve never forgotten it, and even though Grandmother herself has been gone a very long time, she continues to be a huge example to me. Not only have we called them "salad eggs” at our house ever since; her memory sort of pricks my conscience whenever I utter a word I know she never would have used.

Now I realize that you might not have had anybody who was such a positive influence in your life, but I do know this. There is certainly somebody in whose life you can be that kind of positive influence – a child, or grandchild perhaps. In fact, you may not realize it, but they’re already watching and listening to you now. So guard every word that comes out of your mouth, and above all remember: "It’s not what you say that counts. It’s what you DON’T say!”

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint… Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. Proverbs 17:27, 28

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