“The best time to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust.” (Josh Billings) Oh, the wisdom in this statement! Briefly walking down memory lane, I can only think of a few times my bursting of information was a good thing – one being after Eric proposed and I couldn’t wait to tell the world! Yet, other times such bursting occurred include when I was pushed to the limit and I felt either I had to speak the venomous thoughts on my mind or bust – or when I heard some unbelievably juicy gossip and I felt like I was going to scream if I couldn’t tell someone!
Generally speaking, if we feel like we’re going to burst if we don’t say what’s on our mind, it’s probably the best time to keep our mouths shut. In these moments, stop, breathe, and ask God if those thoughts are something you really need to share or if they would bring glory to Him by your sharing. If you find out that you received a raise and your family has been praying for that to happen, then sharing this with your family would bring glory to God! On the other hand, if your co-worker (who you believe does not work as hard as you) receives a raise – and you do not – then it is probably the time to remain silent about the issue and go to the Lord. Ultimately, what comes out of our mouths should bring glory and honor to God.
Proverbs has a lot to say about the tongue – the following is a small sampling of verses (NASB):
- Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
- Proverbs 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.”
- Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
- Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
What other organ in our body causes us more trouble than our tongue? So many nights are ruined between dating and married couples when the tongue is not held! How many of you have been in a mild argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse when all of a sudden you thought of the most awesome, clever, sarcastic, poignant statement? You know… the statement that would stick it to the other person in such a way that he or she could not come back to win the argument? For those times you didn’t hold your tongue, what happened? Well, if your story is like mine, you likely turned a small disagreement into a civil war and ruined a perfectly pleasant evening. On the other hand, what about those times you refrained from saying the hurtful thing you were thinking – what usually happens then? The disagreement is settled fairly quickly and your pleasant evening is resumed. So, is having the last word really worth silence and loneliness? Winning the argument is seldom worth alienating the most important person in your life.
Words don’t only have the power to ruin evenings, but they can also permanently wound those we love. You likely remember words said to you as a child that still bring pain to your heart today when they echo in your mind. When sharp words are spoken, they cannot be retrieved. We can apologize until we’re blue in the face, but nothing we can say can remove the damage done by our words.
If that isn’t sobering enough, try this on for size: Jesus said, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36, NASB). Whenever I hear or read this verse, it makes me want to only speak when it’s absolutely necessary! However, I don’t think Jesus is telling us to quit talking, but He is displaying how important our words are to Him – after all, the universe was created by God’s words. If we are using our words according to His purposes, He is glorified. 1 Peter 3:7 even tells husbands to treat their wives well so that their prayers may not be hindered. God is serious about what we say and how we treat each other – and most of the time, our tongues are the primary weapon of choice.
Are you in the habit of letting your tongue to have its way? Do you have fresh memories of when your tongue has caused the one you love pain and torn him or her down? Take some time this week to metatalk: talk about talking – discuss the impact and choice of your words with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or spouse and see if there are areas of improvement needed. Also, I recommend doing a word study in the Bible on the topics of words and the tongue. Confess to the Lord when you have failed in this area and ask Him to give you the grace and wisdom to use your tongue only to glorify Him as you speak to others. Your relationships will flow much more smoothly as a result.
Are you in the habit of allowing your tongue to have its way – or do you have mastery over it?