Last Sunday, our church service focused on taming the tongue. When the guest preacher revealed the topic of his sermon, I whispered to Aaron, “This will be a good one for me.” He smiled and took a sip of his coffee. Oh, so you agree, then?
As he should. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m what you might call a firecracker. A sassy lady. A bottle of tabasco sauce, as my husband calls it.
Let me clarify that I’m not a mean, horrible person who verbally attacks the people around me. I’m simply pointed with my words when at my wits’ end or in defense of something I believe in. I try extremely hard to never be linguistically cruel, but by doing so, I find myself manipulating my words (writers are scary fighters) to be cutting without forthright degradation. What I avoid in blatant insults, I make up for in tone and strategically formulated sentences that trap the person somewhere between unable to argue with what I’m saying and Hell. In place of insults, I use standards of virtue or personal disappointment as the means to getting my point across. I’ll challenge someone’s morals, ethics, intelligence, love for others, or love for me in the process of trying to get them to see why I’m angry or to feel remorse.
Writing that paragraph really sucked, by the way. I actually just called my husband nearly in tears after analyzing my fighting style in order to put it into words for this blog. He was confused about this sudden onslaught of contrition at 3:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, but comforted and forgave me well. He reminded me that I’m loving and kind 9 times out of 10, but that didn’t make me feel much better about the remaining 10%. Boy is it hard to reflect on the shortcomings in your character– especially when such shortcomings can hurt the people you love the most.
While Aaron was surprised at the randomness of my guilt, he wasn’t surprised at the guilt itself, because just as much as I’m queen of sass, I’m also queen of apologies. Sometimes I feel like two different people, all the span of 30 seconds. I can go from spitting out convoluted sentences that would make Mother Theresa herself question the entire validity of her goodness, to earnestly apologizing for my fiery words and assuring the person that they’re amazing as fast as you can say “multiple personality disorder.”
Again, I’m really focusing on the negatives in my temperament right now, so please don’t think that I run around spewing out venom all willy nilly, then slapping on a happy face moments later. I would say that I control my tongue a vast majority of the time, but when it slips, it slips. Particularly towards the my husband and family. Isn’t that the worst? The people who love you most unconditionally and vice versa tend to be the #1 victims of your biting words. Anyway, my point is to say that I don’t think my loved ones would call me a vindictive or mean-spirited person, but they’ve certainly all seen my tongue in need of some taming.
The fact that I recognize when I am out of line relatively quickly and apologize accordingly doesn’t mean those words are erased. Even scarier, the Bible says that from the heart the mouth speaks, which really reveals my pride. Like I said, the way I fight is not with vicious insults, rather with manipulative words aimed at making the other party feel guilty or incompetent. Thus, I must think I am better in some way– more competent, or worthy of their shame. That, friends, is a classic case of pride. Who am I to make someone put their tail between their legs? Standing up for yourself is one thing, but to condescend is another.
You see, the tongue reveals so much more than words at face value. It reveals our characters, our hearts, and our self-control. I, for one, was so convicted by the pastor’s reminder to tame the tongue– especially after taking time to dig deep into my own tongue’s primary battle (temper) for this blog, recognizing that I need to stop unleashing frustration, anger, or hurt in an unloving, impatient manner. I’ve wanted to change that about myself for as long as I can remember, and have certainly worked on it over the years, but I still have a long way to go.
Some people’s tongues may need taming in other ways, though. Perhaps you don’t struggle with pointed pompous words like I do, but instead find yourself gossiping, slandering, or lying. Maybe you brag, accuse, or bully. The tongue is the most powerful part of our bodies. Just as the Bible says in James 3, it is the rudder to our ship, forging the path for our lives despite how small it may look on the outside. It is the bit for a horse, controlling our whole being by means of a deceptively compact apparatus. No matter who you are, your tongue probably needs some taming in one or more areas, or else you’re in danger of letting it lead your life somewhere you don’t want to go.
If you gossip, you’ll find yourself friendless and lonely. If you lie, you’ll find yourself confused and stressed. If you brag, you’ll find yourself unlikable and insecure. If you bully, you’ll find yourself exhausted from the negativity. On top of the internal consequences, don’t be surprised if your untamed rudder steers you away from job opportunities, love, and communities, because what comes out of your mouth undeniably shapes the course of your life.
The good news is that speaking positivity creates just as much movement as the negativity. Not only does it help align your heart with your mouth (working from the outside in does work!!), but it steers you towards happiness and fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. Displaying patience, kindness, gentleness, maturity, and praise in our speech gives us the opportunity to experience the full beauty in life, and most importantly, gives others that same chance, too.
Taming the tongue will never be something any of us ever fully master, but we can certainly improve. As with anything, that improvement must be intentional, consistent, and regularly recalibrated. For me, I plan on simply not saying much of anything when I feel angry or hurt for now, kind of like the elimination diet. You “cut out everything, then only add back in the good stuff.” I hope this post inspires you to figure out a tactic for taming your tongue, as well, in whatever way it needs to be tamed!