If you your lips would keep from slips,
Five things observe with care:
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak,
And how and when and where.
If you your ears would save from jeers,
These things keep meekly hid:
Myself and I, and mine and my,
And how I do and did.
We live in a world of oversharing…
Oversharing on social media. Oversharing over the telephone. Oversharing in face-to-face conversation.
We humans (and especially us women) are social creatures. We have a drive to talk that can be both a blessing and a curse. One of the ways that talking can be a curse is when we lack discretion. Those who lack discretion have little sense of what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it. A worldly woman is indiscreet. She has no filter…if it comes into her mind, out it spills from her mouth. A christian woman, however, is called to be discreet. She must practice sensibility and weigh her words before putting them on display. (Warning: this often includes talking a lot less and holding our peace a lot more!)
Though often seen as inconsequential, a lack of discretion (A.K.A. oversharing) is quite dangerous. It’s a danger to personal privacy. It’s a danger to family life. It’s a danger to the church. It’s a danger to nations. Countless reputations, families, congregations, and countries around the world have been torn apart because of indiscreet persons. There is wisdom in the old adage: “loose lips sink ships”.
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles. – Proverbs 21:23
Proverbs 11:22 lets us know that a beautiful woman lacking discretion is as ludicrous as a ring of gold in a swine’s snout. On the other hand, a discreet woman has inner beauty to match her natural charm. If you strive to be beautiful inside as well as out, then this lesson is for you. Today, I have 3 simple rules to share that will serve to guide you into being a damsel in discretion. Rule #1:
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. – Proverbs 11:13
They learn to be…gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. – excerpt from 1 Timothy 5:13
In order to “be trustworthy” and keep yourself from “from “talking about things not proper to mention”, follow The Mine and Thine Rule.
Well, what is this rule? The Mine and Thine Rule requires me to discern what is none of your business about me, and what is none of my business about you. It requires me to figure out what information should remain under lock and key. It requires me to have a respect for the privacy of myself and others.
A damsel in discretion is guarded when it comes to her own personal matters. She doesn’t spill all her juicy secrets to everyone who will listen. She knows the difference between private and public information. She knows the difference between talking to a trusted friend or a mere acquaintance. She is comfortable with saying “I don’t want to discuss this topic” when people drill her with questions. She respects her own boundaries.
I have found that the people who have the least respect for their own personal boundaries often have the least respect for other people’s personal boundaries. The same folks who brag “I’m an open book”, and “I have nothing to hide” are typically the same folks who can’t be trusted as far as you can throw ’em. It’s just plain insensible to “put it all out there”. Even God Himself has secrets that are only accessible to His trusted companions. Reservation and a healthy sense of self-respect are godly attributes.
In addition to guarding her own personal matters, a damsel in discretion is also guarded with the personal matters of others. She refrains from asking piercing questions, she doesn’t pry, and she knows when it’s time to back off. She is attuned to the discomfort of others, and knows when to leave well-enough alone. She also doesn’t slander, malign, or gossip about anyone, no matter how vile they may be. She refuses to share someone’s private matters without their express permission. She doesn’t air people’s dirty laundry. She respects the boundaries of others.
If you start a sentence with, “I don’t want to gossip, but…”, stop yourself. It’s gossip. If you have bad blood with someone, talk to them about it. It’s disgraceful to badmouth them to others. If someone asks you about someone else’s personal matter, say “that’s a question for them”. It’s not your business to share.
Cultivate reservation with the information of yourself and others. To be a damsel in discretion, follow the mine and thine rule.
‘Tis not every question that deserves an answer.– Thomas Fuller, M.D., Gnomologia (1732)
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words. – Proverbs 23:9
Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. – Matthew 7:6
In order to avoid “speaking in the hearing of a fool” and afterwards being “torn to pieces”, follow The Canine and Swine Rule.
Well, what is this rule? The Canine and Swine Rule requires me to discern the difference between my friend and my foe, and between the worldly and the wise. It requires me to figure out who is likely to have my back versus who is likely to stab me in the back. It requires me to exercise caution around certain people.
A damsel in discretion is selective with who gets what information. She is wise in knowing how much information to withhold. With those who would misuse and abuse her words, she opts for silence or an abbreviated version of the truth. She knows not to give everyone the whole kit and caboodle.
Our Messiah was in the habit of holding back information from those who would use it to harm His person or His ministry. Many times when the Pharisees would probe Him with entrapping questions, He would give them the Cliff Notes version rather than the whole shebang. Sometimes, He would evade their questions altogether. One of my favorite techniques is when He answered their question with a question of His own, and refused to budge unless they did likewise. (see Matthew 21:23-26)
There are those who with your information would misjudge you, gossip about you, slander you, malign you, and persecute you. Withdraw yourself from them. Being a Christian does not equal being a pushover when it comes to boundaries. Don’t give your treasures to dogs and pigs…it will lead to much harm.
Privacy is Power. Loose Lips Sink Ships. Beware what you Share.
Exercise caution with whom you confide in. To be a damsel in discretion, follow the canine and swine rule.
To whom you tell your secrets, to him you resign your liberty.– Spanish Proverb
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. – Proverbs 31:26
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. – Colossians 4:6
In order to “open your mouth in wisdom” and “know how you should respond to each person”, follow The Wine and Dine Rule.
Well, what is this rule? The Wine and Dine Rule requires me to discern what words are a treat and what words are trash. It requires me to figure out what speech builds up, versus what speech tears down. It requires me to know how to make my words worthwhile to the hearer.
A damsel in discretion is choosy with her words. She is positive and uplifting. She rejects unwholesome speech. She doesn’t use her tongue as a dagger. She speaks life to those around her. She strives to be a light in a dark world.
Consider: Is it wining and dining the hearer to gossip about others? How about grumbling and complaining? Exposing and accentuating the flaws of your husband, children, friends, or relatives? Swearing and using crude speech? Belittling and insulting? Revealing the wrongs done to you (perceived or in reality)?
Do any of these things add light and life to your listener? Or are you, rather, being to them a stumbling block and a corrupt influence?
To avoid gossip, never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say in front of their face. To avoid grumbling and complaining, focus on what good you do have, rather than that which you don’t. To avoid exposing and accentuating the flaws of others, follow the golden rule. To avoid swearing and using crude speech, fill your mind with wholesome entertainment and surround yourselves with high-caliber people. To avoid belittling and insulting, focus on the positive attributes of others. To avoid revealing the wrongs done to you, stop repeating and reliving them in your own mind.
Strive for speech that is above reproach. To be a damsel in discretion, follow the wine and dine rule.
Who steals my purse steals trash, but he who filches from me a good word steals that which now enriches him, and leaves me none the poorer.– Charlton Laird, The Miracle of Language (1953)
Do you want to be a Damsel in Discretion? Then remember to follow these 3 simple rules:
The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life.– William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part I
For God’s glory,
Mrs. Dustin Bolks
Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.