"Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble." Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)
I had an argument with my daughter one night recently. If I had taken the time to think before I spoke, I would have realized that bringing up the subject that was on my mind would likely lead to a conversation that would upset her. And there really was no reason to discuss it at all. It had nothing to do with either of us personally nor did it have any bearing on what was currently happening in either of our lives. It simply crossed my mind and tumbled out of my mouth before I gave any further thought to it at all.
Sadly, but honestly, I have been a slow learner when it comes to thinking before speaking. Not only have I suffered from it personally by getting in trouble with parents, teachers and employers but I have deeply wounded people I love. My intention wasn't to do so but when I chose not to exercise wisdom and restraint, my words were like arrows that pierced their hearts. Although I have usually been quick to seek forgiveness, I know that the human mind can long remember offenses.
James 3:7-10 tells us, "People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right."
If "no one can tame the tongue" as James writes, then what are we to do? People are impulsive creatures and as such we must ask the Lord to teach us how to counter those impulses. When it is more important that we say what we want to say than it is for us to consider how others will receive our words, people are hurt.
Ephesians 4:29b has this to say, "Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." If we remain aware that our words are to encourage others, we will be more likely to choose them carefully. In order to do this, we will need realize that the other person's need for godly encouragement far outweighs our own desires.
Anger, vulgarity and hate are spewed from countless mouths each day. This world needs for those of us who belong to Jesus to love and build each other up. It needs for us to be praying and praising. It needs light in societies where there is so much darkness. Taming our tongues is not an easy thing to do, but we don't have to do it alone. If we allow the Lord full reign in our lives, He will do great things to make us more like Jesus and that will include teaching us to seek His wisdom before we speak.
Gratefully in His grace.