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
I just shouldn’t have said it. We all have said things that we wish we hadn’t. I learned a lesson about that the hard way. I had two bumps in Air Force basic training. One involved singing…you can check that one out on my blog www.gritswithgrace.com (https://gritswithgrace.com/2020/06/01/i-said-sing/). The other one also involved my mouth…I wonder if there is trend there.
In basic guys were assigned to a flight (group) and each flight had a dorm chief. He was someone, a peer of sorts, the flight chief selected from within or outside the flight. Ours was selected from outside. He had a weight issue so was put in a special group that helped men get down to a weight level that was acceptable. That of course meant they had to stay longer in basic. Well, our guy, whose name was Guy, was one of those guys. Because of his longer tenure in basic he was named our dorm chief.
Now it could have been a little jealousy on my side or it could have been that I was a little judgmental or maybe I had a momentary case of the stupids but I said something to one of the guys about this guy. The words are lost to time but it was probably something like, “Who does this guy think he is? He’s not a leader…he is a loser.” Well, anyway, something like that. I said it and forgot it assuming it just died away. It did not.
So, apparently either that guy told another guy who told another guy who told the guy named Guy. The guy named Guy told the guy named Sergeant Catchings who was the same guy that caught me singing. Well, things were about to go south. There was a lesson that needed to be taught and I was the object of that lesson.
Sergeant Catchings gathered the flight outside his office and leaving the door open sat down at his desk. We all were like, “What’s this about?” I quickly found out it was about me. Soon a booming, “you’re in deep weeds son” voice said, “Airman Taylor, get in here.” I got up and went in the office and he instructed me to close the door. I stood smartly at attention in front of the desk. Sergeant Catchings harshly invited me to take a seat. There was no chair.
He had me place my hands flat on his desk and then squat by bending my knees till my arms were parallel with the top of his desk. Three things immediately came to my mind. One, what in the world have I done? Two, this is very uncomfortable. Three, I’m going to die. Well in about one minute I found out that Dorm Chief Guy had told him I was mouthing off. I had broken a cardinal rule…don’t mouth off about those in leadership above you.
Sergeant Catchings, jumped to his feet and began to lecture me about respect for leadership and how I should never, ever disrespect those put in authority over me. Now don’t forget. One, I still “sitting” in the invisible chair with my hands on his desk. Two, the entire flight is outside the door. And by now he is screaming at the top of his voice. For added effect, he would occasionally walk over to the door and kick it or slap it making it sound like I was dying. I was.
Finally, after about ten or so minutes he opens the door and says two words, “Get out.” Imagine 27 guys looking in the office and seeing me squatting with my hands on the desk. I can’t move. I am locked in place. My muscles leg and arm muscles were frozen. He said it again, LOUDER, “I said get out.” So, I fell over and managed to crawl, yes I said crawl, out of his office. I was in agony and the rest of guys were in shock and we all learned a lesson about gossip and respect for authority.
The lesson that day was very valuable. I wish I could tell you that I learned it so well I never had the “stupids” again but that wouldn’t be true. But I can tell you this. There is a reason the Bible talks so much about the tongue and the mouth. It isn’t a matter of finding a verse…it is a matter of choosing a verse. We can start with a little nugget found in Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,
and you will stay out of trouble.” I wish I had remembered that one before I uttered the words that prompted my visit to Sergeant Catchings office.
But the one that probably says it best is this, “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.” Imagine how less complicated our lives, our families, our marriages would be if we mastered that one. Imagine how our work lives and even our worship lives would change. A pastor once said that if we knew we would have to personally apologize to every person we slandered or gossiped about, we probably would hit “pause” a lot more often. Oh well, I’m sure glad we have a graceful God. I have learned over the years to deeply value his patience with me and His mercy for me. There have been too times I’ve had to go to my dearest Daddy and have a chat about “foot in mouth” disease. I’m glad He graciously invited me to come sit close beside Him. He has always heard my confession and honored my repentance. I find rest right there…next to Him. Because He’s got this.