Recommended Reading: Psalm 34:13–14; James 3:1–12
The ability to master our mouths, watch our words, and tame our tongues demonstrates a level of spiritual and emotional maturity. The opposite is true, as well. An inability to control our speech shows immaturity, and it can inflict great harm on our relationships.
Solomon addresses the importance of controlling our words by contrasting positive and negative speech. In each case, the effects end up as opposites: peacefulness or wrath, knowledge or folly, healing, or a crushed spirit. In other words, when we fail to control our tongue, we don’t just fail to give or be a blessing. We also cause a wound that can rupture a relationship.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, states that he asks audiences whether they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about or to anyone. Invariably, a few people answer “yes,” but most call out “no!” He responds, “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ have a serious problem. If you can’t go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you’re addicted to alcohol. If you can’t last 24 hours without smoking, you’re addicted to nicotine. And if you can’t make it 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, you’ve lost control of your tongue.”
How can you tell whether your tongue is under control? You won’t say anything about an individual that you can’t say directly to that person. You resist the urge to exaggerate. You consciously examine your thoughts and remove gossip and rumors from your conversations. You keep in confidence a personal matter that someone else shares with you. Further, you learn to speak positive words. Appropriate words communicate affirmation, comfort, and healing.
When was the last time you said something to another person that you instantly regretted? Maybe it was something intended as a joke that was instead taken as an offense, or perhaps it was a sharp word spoken in anger that you wish you could have taken back. Think of a specific situation, and then challenge yourself to rectify the hurt. While you may not be able to take back the words themselves, you can humbly submit yourself to that person and begin to rebuild the relationship.
To Take Away
- Do you think most men struggle with controlling their words? Why or why not?
- How would others evaluate your speech? Would they say that your words more frequently heal or wound?
- What steps can you take to gain tighter control over your tongue?