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Long before Laura Ingalls Wilder’s words made her famous, they almost got her in a lot of trouble.

As a schoolgirl, Laura wrote a limerick so she and her besties could enjoy a laugh at the teacher’s expense. It was meant to stay just between friends—until a classmate snatched up her chalkboard and passed it around a crowd of loud-mouthed boys.

Laura could wipe the slate clean—literally—but she couldn’t stop her catchy phrases from spreading all over town. What began as a harmless prank backfired and blew up in her face. Laura was called into account both at school and at home—which tends to happen when one’s father is also on the school board.

As for the schoolteacher, so much bad press sent her packing in defeat, and that is the last we hear of her . . . until Laura marries her younger brother. (That must have made for some interesting family reunions, don’t you think?)

Meanwhile, Laura learned a powerful lesson about the power of the written word. It made such an impression she posted the entire story in one of her Little House books. As one who experienced “words gone viral,” I wonder what Laura would make of social media today. I suspect she would share the same advice her mother gave her:

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care: To whom you speak, of whom you speak, And how and when and where.”

Personally, I love social media. Facebook is my version of the general store—the place to hear the news and hang out with friends.

Social media also allows me to speak whenever and wherever I please. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, my soapbox is as close as my phone. I can free my mind as fast as I can type. And a ready audience is just a click away.

So much accessibility does nothing to curb my impulsivity, though. When it comes to tweeting, posting and texting, I am not as careful as I should be. Sure, I try to avoid the big blunders—like choosing the wrong contact name or hitting “reply all” when I meant “reply.” But am I “observing with care” the things that lead to wisdom?

That’s why I’ve decided to take a closer look at biblical principles for good communication.  In upcoming posts, we will seek God’s wisdom as it applies to who, what, when, where and how we speak.  Let’s take care that all our words—on and offline—“communicate grace to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).

Guard my mouth, O Eternal One; control what I say. Keep a careful watch on every word I speak. Psalm 141:3 (The Voice)