Taming The Tongue
The tongue is a powerful tool given by our Lord to do much good but it is capable of much evil as well. James writes in the third chapter that from the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. He then writes, “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10). Unfortunately, too often this is exactly how it is in too many cases. Earlier in the chapter James say, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (James 3:2 ). Not perfect as in sinless, but perfect as in mature and stable. Notice that the one who controls the tongue is able to control the entirety of his body. Think about that a bit and you can begin to see how your mouth is either the gateway toward greater holiness or lack thereof.
I wrote here, here, and here on the nature of the sin of gossip, along with its friends the tale-bearer, the slanderer, and the accuser. Cheap words flowing from a mouth that is not brought under the control of the person through and by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is none who have never done these things, but there are some, many perhaps who are known by these things. That is the basic difference between the one who gossiped and the one who is a gossip. One has on occasion done so and the other is known for it.
So how do you begin to bring your tongue under control? What steps do you need to take to finally put this behind you? The following points are brief but designed to give a reader the essential tools necessary to be known as one who speaks truth and has a tongue that drips with grace rather than accusations.
- Pray. Commit this to the Lord, confessing your tendencies and sparing no punches as you lay out your needs to Him. Pray for a sensitive spirit and pray to use the fulness of God’s provision that is already yours to its fullest in your battle.
- Remember that you are battling forgiven sin. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into an up and down emotional state because you did good one week and bad the other. Remember that your Father is urging you along just as your would urge your little one to keep persevering in taking his first little steps. You are His delight because you are in His Son.
- You must love the unity of the Spirit over the information you may have on a person. This is evidenced by pursuing humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance all conformed under love (Ephesians 4:1-3). This means you need to ask before you talk if what you are going to tell someone else will help promote these things or distract. And if you can’t give a firm “yes” to the positive side then you simply don’t say anything.
- You must put it off by putting on a habit of godly speech. Ephesians 4:29 makes it clear, it is not sufficient to not speak unwholesome words, but instead you are to speak for the goal of building up the other person. And even then you are to speak about something because you believe it will give grace to them as is needed at that time of hearing. In other words, the best way to kill it is to fill your mouth with godly, gracious speech.
- Stop being around people who have the tendency to gossip. And stop lying to yourself that they are your friends and that you don’t want to hurt them. The reality is that a person takes on the qualities of those he associates with. Take to heart the strong words of God in Psalm 50:16-23 and tremble when you regard those with whom you choose to associate.
- Stop thinking you can change a gossip on your own if you just “love” them enough. Proverbs 22:24-25 is easy to understand but it takes courage to implement, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself.”
- Decide to read one chapter of Proverbs every day. Pick one proverb that relates to speech out of that chapter to meditate, review and even memorize each day, but most of all practice it. In one month’s time you will have a very different outlook on the nature of speech for God is faithful to bring opportunities for you to practice those proverbs each day.
- If you find out that you had gossiped then go back to the person you spoke to and seek their forgiveness. If you believe it is necessary go back to the person about whom you spoke and tell them what you said and seek their forgiveness.
- Ask your spouse, parent, or best friend to be ruthless with you as they hear you speak. Urge them to challenge your words and the value or intent behind them.
I want to have ten points but frankly I am out of time. At the same time, you devote yourself to these nine points and you will do fine. OK, here is a tenth one: Have a long view about this whole battle. Commit your heart to desire to become an older woman or man who draws younger people to you simply because you exude graciousness in spirit and speech. That means that you must start right away so that in five or ten years you will have earned the reputation of a person of upright speech.
UPDATED: forgot some links.