I recently saw a wonderful new film called Monsieur Lazhar. You will fall in love with the heavy-hearted Algerian man who ends up teaching sixth graders in Quebec after tragedy strikes the school. Every word he speaks to the children is a "mot juste" (to stick to the vernacular of the story)-pure, helpful, healing, measured, life-giving. He is the teacher every one of us wished we had had, or wished we had been.
To be sure, this is a movie script, not real life. Nevertheless, what strikes me is that the author of the script somehow knows how a righteous man speaks. Perhaps that author is not even a Christian man, and yet he has wonderful instincts for righteous speech and the perfect word at the perfect time. In this he reminds me of C.S. Lewis' elderly professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, who early in the story handles Peter and Susan's complaint against Lucy with spiritual deftness.
I remember an old interview with Michael Landon, of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie fame. It was poignant to hear him express to the interviewer that he wished he could be as good a man in his personal life as he was on screen.
The interesting thing here is that man knows deep down the difference between a good word and a bad word. He may not act on it in his non-celluloid life, but he knows! This is the testimony of Romans 1:18-21 that says men "suppress the truth." One cannot suppress something unless one knows it at some level. And we know it well enough to be held accountable for it on the last day. We also know that sometimes "… Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them …" (Romans 2:14-15).
This hitting the mark in action and word does not earn anyone salvation, of course, being spotty, occasional, and imperfect. But it demonstrates that even unbelievers know the right and wrong thing to say in a conversation. And if unbelievers, how much more the children of God, who have been given His Spirit?
Let us not excuse ourselves for careless, sloppy speech and say we misspoke because we did not know. The verdict of the word of God and even of the movies is this: Deep down we know.