Our son took a lovely young woman out on a date. It was the first date and the last, because a few mildly coarse words peppered her speech. It was a deal breaker for our son. I’ve been thinking lately about the need for refinement of speech. The selection of words spewing from our mouths reveals what we are inside. That is what the Savior Jesus Christ taught: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). And consider this statement: “Language most shows a man. Speak, that I may see thee” (Ben Jonson). How we speak reflects our true selves. Though I would not swear or use the Lord’s name in vain, I want to avoid even using alliterative, substitute words for the Lord’s sacred name. Also, I don’t want to use coarse or crude words—in surprise or exclamation, or in reference to body parts—even though these words are commonplace. How easy it is to become desensitized from hearing coarse and crude language in school, in the media, and in public everywhere. But this is no excuse to lower one’s personal standard. “Refinement of speech is reflected not only in our choice of words, but also in the things we talk about. Refinement of speech is more than polished elocution. It results from purity of thought and sincerity of expression” (Douglas Callister). When in doubt about the appropriateness of using certain words, I will remember the message of this simple child’s hymn: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say…if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?”
How can I get out of a situation that doesn’t feel right to my soul? The answer can be really simple, especially if I decide beforehand how I will handle it. “If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—so watch your step” (Jeffrey R. Holland). A wise leader once said that in her early teens she wrote a list of things that she would do in her life, and another list of things that she would never do. Over many years, she has remained true to that list. Deciding beforehand what actions I will take in a variety of circumstances will provide courage to make difficult choices in a moment of wavering. For example, I have already decided that while watching a film, if an inappropriate scene appears or crude language batters my ears, I will immediately switch channels or walk out of a theater. The decision is made in advance so that there is no need to weigh pros and cons in the moment.
We had oodles of Halloween candy left after trick-or-treaters were gone. I looked at the tiny bite-sized Snicker bars and decided it was a metaphor for an important principle. I would never go in a store and treat myself to a full-sized Snicker bar. My conscience wouldn’t let me. But I can easily gobble down a bunch of mini Snickers—more than the equivalent of a full-sized bar—with barely a twinge of guilt. Why? Because they are just tiny bites, right? Here’s the principle: The adversary knows I wouldn’t be tempted to commit grievous sins like murder, adultery, theft, or deception. Instead, he dangles tiny bite-sized temptations to slowly draw me away from the light. He coaxes little rationales such as: Just this once. Everyone’s doing it. No one will know. Let someone else help. Too tired. Too busy. Too hard. Quit trying. These are the tiny bite-sized temptations that can effectively draw us off the Savior’s path. So, I’m going to recognize the adversary’s subtle ploys and fight back with determination to keep trying, never give up. As I pray for strength to endure hard things, the Lord will lift me beyond every temptation. He promises: “I am with you to bless you and deliver you forever” (D&C 108:8).