The waiter had just set baskets of chips and bowls of salsa on the table in front of us. Mom, Dad, my two sons, and I dove in, ready to enjoy a final lunch before Mom and Dad headed home from their Labor Day weekend visit. In the booth beside us, a man ranted about some recent frustrations. My family was having such a good time that ignoring him would have been easy—if not for his vocabulary.
Let’s just say that he favored a particular word that begins with “f.” My 9-year-old kept giving me looks out of the corner of his eye, his way of communicating that HE knew that man was using bad language. The rest of us covered our desire to remind the guy “Excuse me, but there are kids present” with normal conversation. I considered asking the waiter to move us somewhere else. Thankfully, the man and his family left.
Finally, we could enjoy our lunch.
This incident reminded me why I don’t like swear words and why God’s Word tells us to avoid unwholesome speech. Swear words just sound ugly. Everything that angry man said sounded angrier thanks to those superfluous adjectives and verbs (or whatever parts of speech he considered them). The mood at our table immediately changed when we heard them, from upbeat and fun to uncomfortable and tense.
Later, God prompted me to examine the impact that my language has on others. While I might not use swear words, how often do I bring down the mood at surrounding restaurant tables by complaining, carrying on about all that is wrong in my life, or being critical? Do I consider how I sound to strangers who overhear what I have to say? When I heard that man’s language, I immediately made assumptions that may or may not be true about him. So what assumptions might strangers make about me based on my words?
In a way I’m glad that I overheard that man in the next booth. I’m not glad that my 9-year-old had to hear language that couldn’t be bleeped out; I’m thankful for the reminder to think about what I say, both in public and in private, knowing that others hear.
What have you learned from overhearing someone else’s language? Why do you think it’s so important for us as Christians, to watch what we say in public?