Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman: A Book Review
Whether you enter every room mouth-first or just struggle with an angry outburst from time to time;
Whether you habitually turn the prayer chain into a gossip group or just lapse occasionally into insecurity-fed flattery;
Wherever you fall on the sliding continuum of the blab-o-meter, you’ve undoubtedly wished, at some point in your life, when it comes to your mouth, that you could just Keep It Shut!
Karen Ehman has earned the right to issue a stern warning concerning the use of words by transparently sharing her own history of open-mouth-insert-foot. Grounded in Scripture, Keep It Shut confirms that a problem with the mouth begins in the mind and in the heart. Gracious words spring from a heart that is “laced with grace,” a quality that comes straight from God who kindly sets the example with His ultimate compassion. To reinforce the influence of the mind over the mouth, Karen has compiled a collection of Scripture verses on the right use of words which can be photocopied for memorization and meditation.
Don’t by fooled by the old standard, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” because even if your comment passes the truth test, motives count, and they are “weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). Among the many helpful check-lists in the book is a list of questions for examining motives before speaking.
In the digital age, our fingers can do the talking for us, making it even more urgent that we recognize when it’s time to be quiet. In fact, one of the most thoughtful suggestions in this very practical book deals with confidentiality. When handling a particularly sensitive issue involving a friend, Karen texted the reassurance that she would not be talking about the situation to anyone other than God, and then reminded her friend that she was praying and available if needed. As difficult as it may be for a “talker” to imagine, sometimes the most helpful thing a friend can say is nothing.
However, godly speech is not an excuse for wimping out when there is hard truth that needs saying. Instead, she who would speak the truth in love “must find the fulcrum — the pivot point that balances gentle honesty with hard truth enveloped in love.” The truth is that death to self is the only antidote to “angry mama mouth,” and it is the only fire extinguisher for the flames caused by “the gasoline queen.” “See in it a chance to die,” said Amy Carmichael whenever one of her orphanage staff complained about the cost of discipleship, and a costly discipleship it is when a natural -born talker has to weigh the impact of all those words.
Used rightly, however, words are a gift, and Keep It Shut ends on a blessedly positive note with many suggestions for using words to build up and not to tear down. I have already recorded one of Karen’s ideas in my planner for use during Lent, and her final chapter and appendices beautifully capture the challenge of any spiritual discipline. There is the old behavior which needs to be cast off, and there is the new Christ-exalting behavior which, by the Spirit, we are empowered to put on. In maintaining a mouth that glorifies God, not only must we be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” We must also be quick to use “gracious words [which] are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Disclosure: This book was provided by BookLookBloggers in exchange for my unbiased review.