Taming the tongue. A statement like that conjures up many images. Maybe it brings to mind something horrible you heard someone saying in the hallways of school. Maybe it reminds you of a time in which you said something you later regretted. Whatever it is, James reminds us it is no small task to tame one’s tongue. And I think we see that in a day-to-day basis in our encounters with people.
TV shows (whether news or sitcoms) are chalked full of boldfaced people who say whatever comes to their mind. Might I even dare say…we enjoy that kind of entertainment? What’s better than watching two people duke it out with words? (Oh I know, two people duking it out with their fists!) Imagine what would be said of the Hollywood star that never retorted back at someone who intentionally belittled them with words? They would be laughed at for not responding. They would be laughed at for taming their tongue. They would be laughed at for obeying the Word of God.
On a more personal level, I find it hard to not snap back at someone who lashes out at me verbally (even if I don’t verbally assault them, I do it in my mind). But in studying James, I’ve been convicted (by the Holy Spirit). This has led to a discovery in my life of two things.
1. I can’t control my tongue. There are too many occasions where I say something only to regret it an hour later. I look at the situations I face and easily see I don’t measure up to what God desires. Case and point: Jesus Christ. What a knock on the head when we see God Himself taking insults, beatings, and being spit upon by His creation and He never once retaliates physically or verbally (see Mark 15:15,29,31, Matt 27:30). It would have angered me and surely I would have said or done something, it broke His heart and He remained silent. This brings out a noticeable difference between Jesus the Christ and myself (not that it would have been hard to find any in the first place), He can control His tongue, and I can’t.
2. I need help in controlling my tongue. Who will come to our aid in such a devastating situation? For us Christians, it is not who will come, but Who is already there. The Holy Spirit living inside all believers (Ephesians 1:13) will give us strength to hold our tongues. What do we need to do? Surrender (and sometimes it is very hard) our will and what we want to do to Him. In turn, our will is replaced with God’s will. I challenge you to do that this week. When someone rips into you verbally, pause for a moment, remain silent, and surrender any inclination to strike back to God. Do it and see what happens. I double dog dare you!
Practical Advice for taming the tongue
1) Think before you speak. You don’t have to instantly snap back at someone when they say something harsh to you.
2) If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. It is better to walk away from a situation saying nothing then to add to it. (Check out Ephesians 4:29)
3) Begin each day with a simple prayer: God help me to watch what I say to others.
4) If you hear something negative being said about someone, walk away. If your friends ask you why you did that, tell them you don’t want to be a part of unwholesome talk. (Ephesians 4:29)
5) Practice the spiritual discipline of silence. Try going a whole day without saying a word. Try only listening.
6) If you have something unwholesome, negative, or bad to say about someone, tell God first. Try going to God with everything, even your thoughts. Do this before talking to someone else. Live by the principle: Everything I say or write I’m able to share with God first.
7) Remember that you will have to give an account on Judgment day for every careless word you speak. (Matthew 12:36) So, no matter what you say or where you say it (even if it’s a harsh comment said anonymously on the internet), you will be held accountable.If you do or have messed up with words, go to the person and apologize. Even if they don’t forgive you (sometimes it may be hard for a person to forgive you), God will.
Your thoughts on the issue of taming the tongue?
Any other practical advice you could offer?