“I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.” Psalm 39:1
Last week we studied a bit about gossip, and how a Christian should handle gossip from others. This week, let’s consider how we should handle our own tongues, (a decidedly more difficult task at times!).
In Proverbs we read that holding our tongue is prudent.
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23
Holding the tongue is easier said than done. And while there are moments we need to speak swiftly, it is often better when we can step back and separate our tongues from our emotions. We need some space to pray, and think logically. We also need to enlist self-control!
James reminds us “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26
“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Proverbs 3:2
“But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
Obviously, we need God’s help to tame the tongue. We should take it to Him in prayer. And when those circumstances hit us and our tongues are tempted to talk, we need to first speak to Him, asking Him to guide our words.
The consequences of our words should never be underestimated: “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5 Or, on a positive note, “Through patience a man can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” Proverbs 25:15 “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:2
Words obviously can be used for good, or for bad. The words we choose give others insight into our hearts. “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:23
Let us set our minds on God and His word, and not only on the things of this earth. When we choose to focus on God, it is amazing how others things can lose their draw. Allow your heart to be consumed with what God has for you, not the latest word around the neighborhood.
If you are someone who is enticed by gossip, and are sometimes surprised by the things you say, maybe taking a look at the self-control level is a good idea. Many times, people do not want to say hurtful things, and yet they somehow are said. If you are one to discuss the inappropriate, pray for more self-control.
What are the steps to take for taming the tongue?
1) Pray. This is two-fold. If we spend time with God, He will fill our spirit with His love. We will not need others affirmation nearly as much. Not needing that may help us to make wiser decisions about our speech. Just being in His presence and enjoying who He is can lead to a day with inner spiritual peace. We often mistake this need for something we can get from this world, and sometimes, look to fill that gap through gossip.
Our first response should be to enlist help from God. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He will let us know what we need to do: through Bible study, a word from a friend, a sermon that hits us just a certain way, the possibilities are endless! Pray first!
2) Stop the flow of information. What is our first response when someone gets burned? Stop the burn. Immediately cool with cold water (if the skin is not broken). The point is, stop the transfer of heat to the affected area. Likewise, if someone wants to confide in you and you know keeping it in is a difficulty, ask them to find another confidante. Suggest they find someone who may offer more assistance or bring more spiritual maturity to the situation.
3) Silence is golden. “Let my words be few…” Commit this to memory and keep in mind that anything which comes from our mouths needs to glorify God and uplift others. If our words can not do neither, they should not pass from our lips.
4) Disengage through distance. The longer you sit and hear information being passed, the higher the chance you will cave in. If gossip starts, remove yourself from the room, or at the very least, the conversation. (See post Taming the Tongue Part I).
Our words can be a gift to others and to God. We are His one creation who can eloquently speak words of wisdom, phrases of encouragement, and speech of kindness. We are also the one creation who can tear each another down with just a tongue.
Words are so important to each of us in some way. “Words of Affirmation” is one of the Five Love Languages. We can obviously feel loved by others, through their words. We can also feel discouraged and even unloved through a choice of negative words.
As Christians, we should never miss an opportunity to encourage one another, sincerely compliment one another, and to say “thank you” for a job well done.
1) Pray God will author your speech.
2) Consider your conversations this past week: Did they each glorify God and build others up?
3) What situations or circumstances do you find lend yourself to falling into gossip? How can you change that?
Please return on Monday March 5 for the next post “Gossip: When YOU are the topic”