We know the harm that a careless word can cause. We hold the power to harm others and ourselves on the very tip of our tongues.
From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. -Proverbs 18:20-21
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. -Proverbs 15:4
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. -Proverbs 12:18-19
We have all felt the sting of another’s words – intentional or not – in our lives. And I’m sure I’m not alone in reading Proverbs and thinking every once in awhile, thank the Lord I’m not a fool.
To take a page out of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: What fools these mortals be?
We all play the fool sometimes. It’s in our nature. As we grow, we are supposed to learn how not to be as a fool all the time, but can we ever really leave behind all our foolishness.
The answer is no, and it is most clearly seen in the way that we use our words. Assuming that everyone is flawed and uses their tongue like a fool’s dagger sometimes, what are we to do?
- We should be as quick to apologize as we are to forgive. One may seem easier than the other, but in my experience, both are a struggle. You must be quick to apologize when you speak out of turn or wound another with your words. Immediately, if possible. And with a sincere heart. And in the same way, you have to forgive those who wound you – here’s the real kicker – apology or not. (Proverbs 14:9; Ephesians 4:26-27)
- We should be quick to speak the truth. Personally, it is hard for me to tell hard truths. I have run my brain dry countless time trying to find a way to skirt the hard truth while still telling some truth. What I’ve found, surprisingly, is that just telling the truth might not be the easy option, but it is the best option. You must strive to always speak the truth that you see, but with love and gentleness and open eyes. (Ephesians 4:15; Proverbs 12:22)
- We should be quick to speak THE TRUTH. How do we grow away from foolishness? By growing closer to God and infusing His Word and truth in every part of our lives. Slowly and surely, we will learn to tie our tongue in knots, but to pepper our conversations with God’s truth. There is a difference between speaking the truth that we see and letting the Holy Spirit speak through us. Not everyone will appreciate the difference, but if you get a sour feeling in your gut after speaking, it may be a clue that you need to stop and search your heart in regards to your words. (1 Peter 3:15-16; Luke 12:12)
- We should be quick to speak love and peace. In the same way that we should not be quick to speak if we do not feel peace about what we want to say, we should strive to extend peace and love to everyone. Sometimes, our words will strike others. Sometimes, we may think that’s it’s necessary to bring down walls with our words. But when we break down those walls – intentionally or not – we should be quick to surround ourselves and those around us with love and peace. This is what we have received from Christ, and this is what we must extend. (Colossians 3:12-15; Romans 12:17-18)
Never has my mouth been harder to control than in the context of my own marriage. As a couple of only a few years, we are still learning how to live and work together, and our tongues can often run away with themselves.
No matter your circumstance, you can learn how to curb your tongue and speak truth and peace – all with the Lord’s help. Let us all strive to feel at peace with the words that surround us.
Melody Quinn is a recently married ex-English major who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. She celebrated her second year wedding anniversary with fellow book nerd Kevin on April 9th, 2018. She graduated from SFASU with a degree in English and Technical Writing and is currently working as an associate editor for TouchPoint Press. Melody is a member of North Baptist Church in Fort Worth. In her free time, she enjoys spending hours reading and writing, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, and playing with her baby guinea pig, Gwen.