Preparing Your Mouth for Duty
I reported to the police academy as naïve as the cadet standing next to me. We were all squeaky clean and spoke in excited utterances of new jargon from law to defensive tactics. Then the day came when the guest instructor let the F-bomb fly.
None of us were saints, but this was sacred ground. This was the Academy after all. This was where we were promised to be polished and churned out into a new you where the words of truth, justice and the American way dominated our language.
But this guy; he just dropped the mother of all curses.
And throughout his four-hour presentation, it weaved its way into his lexicon as naturally as the transparencies for his overhead projector presentation. Yep, there were no such things as laptop computers or digital projectors.
Power of Life or Death
Have you considered the power of your spoken word? God says that we will be held accountable for every empty word spoken. If we think back over the hour before reading this, what have you said and how do you think you’ll be judged for saying it?
On the other hand, positive words of truth and affirmation have the potential to build and grow good deeds and strong characters. Not just for the person receiving the words, but for you who are speaking them.
“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:20-21).
My wife and I practice speaking power over our marriage, each other and our kids. It pays off in the short term, and like a farmer who plants seeds, positive words will eventually bear positive fruit.
On the flip side, think about the spiritual, emotional and social deaths when harsh, threatening or negative words are spoken. Telling a child they are stupid or no good, only curses them for future hurt from someone they loved to nurture them.
How about on duty? A kind word from your supervisor or another officer makes all the difference in your tour of duty. Maybe a complainant commends you for the way their crisis was handled, and that carries life in your spirit.
It’s no different than the protest again us that rage across the nation. We might ignore it behind a protective helmet and riot shield, but their negative words wound the spirit and cause a calloused effect on our service.
But It’s So Small
The Bible refers to the tongue in ways of influence that it can’t compare to anything else. Did you know that the average tongue weighs only 70 grams and from the back to tip is 3.93 inches? Yet, God likens its’ power to a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder and a forest’s spark to fire.
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:3-5).
By virtue of the shield you earned, you have access to people that no one else could imagine. Even the rookie can gain entre into the CEO’s office without appointment or permission.
Why not take each opportunity to demonstrate the life giving power of your spoken word. Sure, there are times when actions are violent and words match the intensity. I let a few colorful ones fly the other morning when I stumbled across the kids’ Lego kits. This isn’t asking for perfection, it’s asking for an effort.
Not only are there chances to uplift others, but also to bless your own life. This is serious business, and because we have the good fortune to communicate with so many people from various walks of life throughout each tour, we shoulder individual ministries where we can share our own message.
“For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech’” (1 Peter 3:10).
You don’t have to be a “religious: person to understand good advice. We all graduated from an approved law enforcement academy where we learned laws, actions and consequences. These Bible verses are no different from your criminal codes. Following them brings peace, breaking away causes discord.
Patience and perseverance escape most people as qualities to be valued. We’ve learned through our service that these are virtues. Nothing administrative is going to happen quickly in an agency no matter the size. We also learn to carry on while patiently contributing to our pension in hopes of a fruitful retirement.
These are values we exercise daily, so they should be easy to apply in preparing your mouth for duty. A regular practice of positive speech may not bear fruit the first time you choose to be kind instead of cutting to the rookie, but in time your words will bear fruit.
You will reap what you sow. Many people call it karma, but make no mistake; this is Bible-based and good common sense. But the challenge for us in our closed cop culture of compartmentalizing one thing at a time is to break the social funnel vision and see the potential for long-term effects caused by your words.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
Whether it is your wife or kids, or co-workers or the street rat that you encounter almost every day on duty, you’ve been blessed with the authority to influence and effect others in a good or bad way with every single word that comes out of your mouth. What’s as important as knowing how your influence others is to understand how you do or don’t bless yourself.