To Battle We Go: Loose Lips Sink Ships

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

During wartime, what had previously been harmless talk suddenly becomes very important, even dangerous. Such is the case with information about the location of ships – their departure and arrival times, their port of destination, who and what they are carrying onboard, and what route they will take. This commonplace conversation can be overheard by spies and communicated to the enemy who will use it to plot their own deadly naval strategy.

During World War II the U.S. Navy developed a famous advertising campaign called “Loose Lips Sink Ships” to discourage everyone, military and civilians alike, from talking about things that could unintentionally get ships sunk and sailors killed. Other military forces had similar campaigns. The British phrase was “Careless Talk Costs Lives,” which was cleverly shortened to “Keep Mum,” and the French phrase was “Qui a trop parle?” which translates as “Who said too much?” Another starkly blunt poster showed a drowning sailor with the caption “Who blabbed?” Our modern military has updated this campaign with the phrase “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets” (Amen to that!).

This kind of warning should be familiar to Salvationists because the Bible contains many warnings about the dangerous power of the tongue. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” and “is also like a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” James warns us that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” And Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:29 that what we say must “be only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

While the power of the tongue for good or evil in the body of believers is obvious, less obvious perhaps is how powerfully our tongues can affect our entire movement. The Army can’t improve without self-criticism, but it must be done carefully. We all have opinions about what needs to change in the Army, but we must express those opinions in a way that builds our movement up, rather than tearing it down (I’m preaching to myself here, chief among sinners, lest any should boast!). “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,” the “salt” being the criticism and the “grace” telling us how the criticism should be delivered. Both are absolutely necessary, but the art is in getting the mix right (Colossians 4:6).

So, loose lips can sink individual Salvationists and the whole of The Salvation Army as well. Since we Salvationists are always on war footing there is really no time when loose talk is permitted. No, we don’t have to keep our location, movements, and routes secret! But we do have to be careful what we say around fellow Salvationists and to those we serve. Let’s use Psalms 141:3 as our “loose lips” slogan: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”