Do your words get you into trouble? Have you ever said something you wish you hadn’t? Do you say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Here is how to use your tongue wisely!
A while back, I offended someone very close to me. I fell victim to saying something I wished I hadn’t. I said the wrong thing at the worst possible time. The real problem was that I didn’t think before I spoke. I speedily apologized to this person and sorted out the mess that my words had gotten me into.
Do the words you speak have a direct impact on the lives of others? Read James 3:2-10. These scriptures speak of a resounding YES! James tells us that the tongue is “unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Man can tame the beasts of the field but cannot tame his tongue.
All it takes is one or two ill-placed words, and you have offended someone, started a rumor, gossiped or criticized, and eroded a portion of your character. You and I really need to be aware of just how serious this problem is. The bridling of our tongue takes effort—a conscious, daily, minute-by-minute effort—to think before we speak.
Speaking the right words at the right time can mean the difference between success and failure. The application of God’s principles on this subject will greatly improve your ability to get along with others and help you develop further friendships.
“The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.” Proverbs 18:6-7 Ill-spoken words cause strife and contention between ourselves and others. Some of us may speak “the words of the reckless pierce like swords.” Proverbs 12:18
We must be aware of what we are saying and how we are saying it, lest unknowingly—or, worse yet, knowingly—we offend others.
Just as we can hurt others with our words, so can we speak soothing and beneficial words that build, uplift and strengthen those around us. The correct use of these words takes the wisdom of God: “but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
Proverbs 16:24 reveals “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Soothing and beneficial words can actually be health to our bones. Think about that! Speaking such words in sincerity will serve to keep our minds better focused on living this way of life. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.” Proverbs 25:11 These are the kinds of fitly words we must be speaking.
Each day we come into contact with family, friends, teachers, employees or local church members. What we say and how we say it affects not only them, but also us—either positively or negatively. And once spoken, we can’t take our words back!
The son of King David, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:11-12), fully understood the vital importance of being careful with words. He gave us specific, canonized instructions about what to say and what not to say, how to say it and when to say it.
King Solomon showed us that there is a time for everything. He instructed us that there is both “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:1-7.
Should we just say the first thing that comes into our mind—or think about it first? “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 29:20 “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Proverbs 15:28 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
Humanly it is tempting, especially when we are angry, to speak the first thought that comes into our minds. But don’t! Wait! Stop for a few seconds, and think about what you should say. You may decide to say nothing and wait for a better opportunity to respond. Be sure of this: “Whatever you say must fit the occasion. Remember, God wants us to speak words fitly spoken.”
Fitly spoken words can provide us with true godly joy and delight, and at the same time, keep us out of trouble. “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23 “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23
Your words can also calm tensions. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 By remaining calm and not raising your voice, you can avoid frivolous quarrels and friction.
Solomon stressed the importance of speaking the truth at all times. He said, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.” Proverbs 19:9 “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Proverbs 12:19 “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” Proverbs 12:22
Telling the truth is vitally important to God. He made sure to write it in His own handwriting on the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16). Satan injects the temptation to deceive others, to twist the facts in favor of oneself. “Honesty is the best policy,” even when it hurts. You will be known by those around you for either your honesty or dishonesty.
Be sure not to enter into rash or hasty promises that you know you will not be able to honor. Think before you promise to do something you may have to back out of, making yourself a liar and damaging your credibility.
Some individuals, it seems, are always talking, rarely allowing others the chance to contribute to a conversation.
King Solomon tells us that a person who spares his words is wise.“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 10:19 “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Proverbs 17:27-28
If you are the type who dominates conversations, be sure to stop and think before you speak. Ask yourself the question, “Is my comment going to be uplifting, helpful and edifying?” If you are in doubt, don’t speak, just listen. Become a better listener and thinker.
Most people who talk a lot are not good at listening to others because they are too preoccupied with thinking about what they are going to say next. They miss the important details within the conversation and often interrupt, wanting to inject their own comments, often answering a matter before they even know the real issues. What does God think about this? “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13
Becoming a good listener goes a long way toward building true friendships, and you will find you’ll learn a great deal more about others in the process.
We have all met boasters: those individuals who brag about themselves, their abilities, their families or their lofty, likely unattainable, future plans. Do you fit this description? We all must constantly examine ourselves, testing, proving and overcoming.
We should all think before we begin to speak: “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). “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:1-2)
How much more rewarding and satisfying it is to receive recognition from someone else’s lips than our own self-serving words! You’ll find that people will want to spend more time with you because your main topic of conversation is not yourself or your own interests and abilities. Others will be more likely to believe good words spoken about you by the lips of others than by your own lips.
It is best to avoid certain topics of conversation.“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Ephesians 5:3 Do you appear pure at church services and then display improper conduct, humor or conversation in private? Verse 4 reads: Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
A wise person will refrain from criticizing or putting down people and gossiping about them. “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:12-13 Gossiping can cause great harm; it serves no benefit. “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28 “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.” Proverbs 26:20-21
Through gossip, one can damage the reputation of another, often unjustly, and even separate the best of friends in the process. Before repeating a matter, be sure it is truthful and will not harm the person you are talking about. Remember, think before you speak. If you know of something that could damage the credibility and reputation of another person, don’t repeat it. If you cannot say something positive about another person, why say anything at all?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
We should be striving always to build up and encourage others. Display a genuine out flowing concern for the good and welfare of others. Help and encourage those around you to do their best, excelling in all areas of life. By esteeming others more highly than ourselves, we will be less inclined to point out their faults and personal shortcomings. When dealing with difficult people, be sure to set the standard and move the conversation to a ”higher plane than the self.”
In Matthew 7:12 it says “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Here we are instructed in an invaluable principle we all must apply in our daily speaking opportunities. Simply, we should treat other people the same way we would like to be treated. People tend to treat us the same way we treat them. Being sincerely friendly, honest, unselfish and encouraging to others will motivate them to provide us with the same courtesy.
King David was very careful about how he spoke and what he spoke about. He said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked” Psalm 39:1. David made sure he looked to God, as we all must, for the essential assistance in controlling the tongue. He asked God humbly for His help: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” Psalm 141:3. In Psalm 19:14 David cried out “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Just as David did, we must ask God for wisdom to control our speech. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 Ask God daily for this wisdom to say the right words at the right time, speaking fitly spoken words that edify and uplift. God will give us this wisdom if we sincerely desire it and are striving to do those things that please Him. 1 John 3:22
The individual who thinks before he or she speaks will receive the assured benefits and blessings God offers us. Look at some of those blessings, promised in Scripture: Proverbs 22:11 “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” Proverbs 16:13 “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.” Proverbs 13:3 “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 “For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”
If we are careful in what we say, we will enjoy true peace of mind, knowing that we have not offended others by careless or unkind remarks. We will be working toward the fulfillment of Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Our speech is important to God. Christ said that it is a direct reflection of what we spend our time thinking about (Matthew 12:34). Let’s strive both individually and collectively to guard our mouths. When you do this, you will be one who speaks fitly spoken words. So make sure you think before you speak!