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LIFE MATTERS

How to avoid foot-in-mouth disease

By Gerry Lewis | Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014

“He put his foot in mouth.”

I was pondering that phrase this morning and wondering about its origin. I did some Internet research and found that there is no definitive answer.

One article suggested: “One possible point of origin for this phrase traces it back to Irish parliamentarian Sir Boyle Roche, who was sort of an 18th-century equivalent to (former U.S. Vice President) Dan Quayle. Roche once said, ‘Half the lies our opponents tell about me are not true!’ Someone with a much firmer grasp of the English language remarked of Roche, ‘Every time he opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it,’ and a phrase was born.”

Sounds good to me. It was on the Internet, so it must be true.

I am doing something today I don’t think I’ve ever done. At least I don’t remember doing it (which is NOT an example of foot-in-mouth). I am writing twice in one day on the same subject.

Many of you do not know that I write two blogs. “Life Matters,” which many of you read in the newspaper, has been around longest (almost 18 years in some form).

I started writing a second blog last November. “Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement” (www.drgencouragement.blogspot.com) is a daily (except Friday), encouraging devotional based on my own morning devotional reading and prayer. Usually about one-fourth the length of a “Life Matters” post, I’d love for you to check it out if that sounds interesting.

This morning’s post was based on Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

I wrote that a mouth filled with praise doesn’t have much room for criticism (or a foot). You’ll have to go online if you want to see the rest (shameless plug … again, NOT an example of foot-in-mouth).

Now, if I were to say that people who read my newspaper column are not as savvy as those who read my blogs, THAT would be an example of foot-in-mouth. Or if I were to say that people who read only blogs are disconnected from what is happening in their local community, THAT would be an example of foot-in-mouth.

It seems to me that one common symptom of foot-in-mouth is a judgmental attitude and a lack of sensitivity to those who will hear.

By “sensitivity,” I don’t mean the politically correct sensitivity that is concerned someone might be offended. I mean being aware of people, seeing the value of each person and the unique contribution he or she brings to the ongoing conversation of living in community.

Psalm 34:1 reminds me that the best things I can say are based on observation of what God is doing among people whose lives matter to Him. If we can’t find something praiseworthy before we criticize …

… maybe we should stick a foot in there until we can.

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur.

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