I've composed a new phrase to live by. It might seem harsh, but I'll explain it.
"Be sure you're worth the words you use to say what's on your mind."
I've noticed that people are often extremely superfluous. We talk on and on about unnecessary things. Our words are fluffy and ultimately mean little in the grand scheme.
Of course, as Naomi Watts says in one of my favorite movies, "If we only spoke when there was something to say, the human race would soon lose all power of speech." But please--please, please, please--if you're going to say the superfluous things, say the important things, too.
People waste words. Perhaps words are (to borrow an economics term) "public goods" that cost us no money and are in endless supply. However, the consequences of ill-spent words can be more than we instinctively foresee.
Do we even know what we mean, who we are, the truth we think we try to communicate?
"Lightly men talk of saying what they mean...when the time comes to you at which you will be forced to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they listen to the babble we think we mean?"
Liberty is natural and instinctive; but ethics are a rational restriction we impose on our own behavior for a greater ultimate good. Perhaps we say what comes to mind, break the ice, tell that story you happen to think of as a result of a funny coincidence...but what are we saying? Do we consider that speaking is an action, and one that requires ethical consideration?
My most compelling ethic lately has been Authenticity. It takes true courage and honesty to be authentic--to live as God made me, owning my own personality and passions, and to remember that it's His image that I bear. Yet we humans are hasty and thoughtless in our anger, but hesitant and shallow in our encouragement. To love is to value, to know truth. We take for granted our priceless proximity and depart alone, undiscovered, unfamiliar.
Consider the value, impact, and meaning of your words and your life. Live as the image-bearer and co-heir that God made you to be. Then tell me something that's worth the words you use to say it.