In our Wisdom Note for today picture with me that we are heading out on our trail for another trek today. We are making good progress over summits and through the valleys, past the meadows and the rivers. As we crest a hill, we hear from deep within the valley the distinct ringing of a church bell calling out to the people of the village that it is time to come, worship, and fellowship together. In today’s hectic and fast-paced world, we reflect fondly on a simpler time when we took the time to come together as a like-minded community.
Just like people, there are different kinds of bells. Church bells ring melodious while the trolley goes clang, clang, clang. There are cowbells, sleigh bells, schools bells, dinner bells, doorbells, and handbells. Probably one of the most famous bells is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Paula and I had the privilege of visiting this past week as we were attending the Podcast Movement 2018 conference that was held in Philadelphia.
Bells have been an important part of my life. Growing up on the farm, we had a big train bell mounted on the back of the house that we could hear just about anywhere over the entire 100 acres. Mom would call us in from the orchard, the valley, or the lake for dinner or other important matters with this bell.
At The Big House, we have a large train bell mounted outside the back door that my granny always rang loud and long when family and friends were leaving after an extended stay as she waved and shouted goodbye. We still use it for that purpose today.
When our kids were still living at home, Paula had a different type of bell for each of the three floors in our home–cowbell for the attic, a small dinner bell for the second floor, and an electronic bell for the first floor. The kids always knew which floor to come to based on the bell used. It sure saved a lot of shouting to round up the children.
This also reminds me that our lives are like a bell. Each bell was designed for a specific purpose. It can ring loud or soft, fast or slow, but it should always ring true based on the type of bell. One truth that is undeniable, though, is that you can never unring a bell.
The expression “You can’t unring the bell” has been frequently used in courts of law. Once an attorney makes a statement or presents evidence, jurors can’t “unring the bell” and unhear what they heard or unsee what they saw. If the statement or evidence is later found to have been inadmissible, it could be grounds for a mistrial. “Unring a bell” has been cited in many legal decisions.
Politicians also know that they can’t “unring a bell”—statements and actions can’t be erased from the public’s mind. There are many idioms similar to “unring a bell,” such as “You can’t unscramble eggs” and “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”
This is why it is so important that we always engage our brain, before we engage our mouth. Once a word is spoken, it cannot be unspoken. As Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.”
Also in Proverbs 10:11, we read, “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”
The old axiom “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is just not true. Words can wound deeply, so be very careful of what you say and how you say it. Some people remember much longer than others, and when we are wounded, it is hard to forgive and forget, especially if it is an on-going practice by the offender.
The book of Proverbs has so many verses about how we should and should not speak. The words that hurt the most are those that come from ones we love who should also love us.
Proverbs 11:9, “With their words, the godless destroy their friends…”
Proverbs 15:1 , “Harsh words make tempers flare.”
Proverbs 15:4 , “…the deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Encouraging words, on the other hand, can be a life giving force.
Proverbs 16:24, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Proverbs 18:20, “Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.”
Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
If you find yourself wishing that you could “unring the bell,” consider how much time you spend talking, for it says in Proverbs 10:19, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”
While I am not a proponent of living in the past at all, the past should be a teaching tool for us. No, you can’t unring a bell, but the next time you “ring the bell,” make sure that its purpose is to help, encourage, and build others up.
If you find yourself the recipient of someone else’s thoughtless or cruel words, make sure that your bell continues to ring true.
We are encouraged in the 1st letter that the Apostle Peter wrote in Chapter 3 verses 9-11, “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.'”
Regardless of what type of bell you are, serve that purpose faithfully and always ring true because you can never unring a bell. Now that you understand how life is like a bell, ring true each day on your trek of life. You have a purpose no one else can fill.