Words, when spoken, may seem like a mere passing breath, but they have a lasting impact on people, situations and eternity. Mental words should be given some forethought before they become spoken words. Once again, the fool will speak randomly without thought, but the wise man will speak with thought, intention and self-control.
Rash words can make thoughtless promises, make irrational claims and make sensitive information public. Words can ruin a man financially, socially, physically and spiritually.
A man who is careful with his words will guard his life, or in the Hebrew, his nepes. The word nepes occurs 4x in these three verses (Proverbs 13:2-4) where it is translated “soul,” “life,” and “desire (“craving” or “appetite”)”.
The mocker is the same man who speaks rashly, while the wise man is the one who shuts his mouth and learns. The focus of Proverbs is not on remaining silent, but on having self-control in the area of speech.
The Egyptian writings called Instruction of Amenemope composed around 1300-1075 BC teaches in similar fashion when it says,
“Guard your tongue from harmful speech, then you will be loved by others.”
Do realize, of course, the goal of the wise man in Proverbs is not simply to be loved by others or to be socially accepted, but to walk with Wisdom and Truth. Being loved by society was never the mission of men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and others, but neither was being offensive and randomly stirring up trouble.
(Also consider these verses from Proverbs: