How Can I Control My Tongue? Answers From the Bible
It’s so easy for us to use our tongues for the wrong reasons and hurt people by what we say, so how can we control our tongue?
It’s so easy for us to use our tongues for the wrong reasons and hurt people by what we say, so how can we control our tongue? The tongue has been compared to a rudder because it can steer the vessel one way or the other and certainly drive it to shipwreck other people’s lives and even our own, so how can we stop the words before they even come out? We are told that “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5)! This means we can’t totally control the tongue. James wrote that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). We can claim to be a Christian, but our tongue can make others have doubts about that since “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
The Power of Words
Words have meaning. They hold the key to life and death (Prov 13:3, 18:21). They can either build others up or they can tear others down. When people tear down others by their tongue (their words), they are making enemies right and left and there’s no room for that in the church that Jesus built. We are to build up others and encourage and fortify other people’s faith but when we say words that hurt, words that we’ll likely regret later, there is no way to take them back. Once our words are out there, they cannot be unspoken. It’s like someone can’t “un-hear” something spoken to them. Once we hear it, we’re stuck with it and so are others when our words hurt, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11). Further, we should “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).
One of the primary reasons people gossip is because they believe it will make them look better in comparison. They might even think or say, “Well, at least I’m not that bad!” We look better before others when others are thrown into the shade a bit. We might even reason, “No, I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not like so and so who does such and such.” Such words are evil as God declares them one of the seven things He hates (Prov 16:17, 19). When we tear others down with words or gossip, we might think we’re better than them, but the make is, we may be worse. This too is sin because God shows no partiality at all among us (Rom 2:11-16) so neither should we.
Think Before Speaking
I love the idea of counting to ten when you’re angry. That’s because we might cool down after counting to ten and avoid saying something we’d regret. We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, or listening twice as much as we talk (James 1:19). I’ve never learned a thing while talking but only when I listen can I learn anything of value. We should think about what words we are about to unleash and see if they are going to hurt someone or help someone. Are we overreacting to the situation? Maybe we’ve misunderstood them? Be sure to ask for clarification before you answer because we told not to answer a matter before it’s fully spoken (Prov 18:13). In short; think before you speak, or you may regret it.
When should use our words for good and not evil. We need to learn when, where and what words need to be spoken and not spoken and the appropriate time. Sometimes saying nothing is better. The Proverb says that a “word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (25:11). Our words can get us into trouble very quickly, so let us guard our tongue, “lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end” (Prov 25:10). The Apostle Paul said “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:19). He would suggest we “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:18) and make sure to avoid “quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” (1 Tim 6:4).
I can still remember words that were said to me by someone when I was young that I never forgot. They believed and said I would never amount to anything and that your life is a waste of space. Those words really hurt me and I almost believed it, but it really is to easy to use our tongues for the wrong reasons and use the wrong words, but God will hold us all accountable for every single word we ever speak in this life (Matt 12:36), “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:37), therefore chose your words carefully. Let me end this article with a very good question: Have you trusted in Jesus Christ yet? Has God brought you to repentance and faith in Christ (Mark 1:15)? I pray that you’ve already trusted in Jesus Christ, for He says to you and He says to all, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Repent today and trust in Christ or face God’s judgment after death (Heb 9:27) or at Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), whichever comes first.
Here is some related reading for you: Seven Good Bible Verses About Taming the Tongue
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.