A Powerful Weapon We All Possess
It was a humid summer evening with the sounds of laughing children, the smell of frying food, and a general hubbub from groups seated around weather-worn tables. My little brother and I were on the restaurant playground while Mom and Dad waited for our food to arrive. Suddenly, it happened: A flurry of running feet, a gritty handful of sand in the face, and the shouted words, “Your brother’s a big, fat BABY!”
Excuse me. What? Was that chunky, little kid calling my brother a big, fat baby? He should check the mirror himself sometime. I didn’t have time to tell him that though because as soon as the kid shouted those words, he was off like a chubby little rocket—and I was right behind him.
Yes, the above story really did happen. It’s been sixteen years since that memorable event happened, but my blood pressure still begins to rise when I think of it. Thankfully my parents got a hold of me before I could do anything rash . . . good thing!
There’s something that you possess that has the power to change lives: your tongue. Your tongue has incredible force to influence those around you. Just listen to what James (Jesus’ brother) tells us:
“But no human being can tame the tongue . . . With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing” (James 3:8–10).
That’s a powerful verse! (If you haven’t read James 3, you need to.) And it’s painfully convicting. How often have you and I let our tongues run, only to regret what we just said? With summer here, we’ll likely be with friends more often, see family we haven’t been with since last year, and have opportunities for a surplus of words—words that can encourage or tear down and destroy.
With that in mind, here are five steps we can take to guard our words (because let’s be honest, I’m working on this right alongside you).
1. Hit the “Pause” Button
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Prov. 17:27).
Before you spout out a comment, pause and think. So often I have replied without really thinking, only to realize, Wow, Beecher,
you really said that? I can’t believe you! The old adage, “Think before you speak,” remains true in today’s culture. That’s true in person and on social media.
2. Assess the Situation
Before you open your mouth, ask yourself: “Does this situation truly call for my comment?” Can you add something to the conversation, or would it roll along just fine without your addition? A great man of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Is it time for you to be courageous and simply listen?
3. Get to the Heart of the Matter
Perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself before you speak is this: “Why am I about to say this?”
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Whoa. God already knows our intentions! Am I speaking just to hear myself talk? Or because I want to be the center of attention and gain respect? If you really have pure motives for wanting to speak, go for it! Just make sure you’re not wagging your tongue for your own glory.
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary” Isa. 50:4).
Wow! What a great opportunity we have to lift others up and encourage them!
4. Dig into Scripture
While you’re working on being mindful of what you say, there’s something we all need to be doing: hearing what God has to say about our words. There are an incredible number of Bible passages that relate to our words. It’s the perfect roadmap for us! Here are just a few verses to get you started:
- Proverbs 12:16
- Ephesians 4:29
- Matthew 12:36
- Proverbs 18:21
- Psalm 141:3
- Proverbs 21:23
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.* When we find ourselves feeling any of the above, we’re more susceptible to saying something we’ll later regret. Be wary, and don’t do any “word-vomiting” (a gross term, but words can be just plain gross!). Remember the ultimate goal with our words: to glorify the One who created us and point those around us to Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 16:24 tells us, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
Think before you speak, let your words encourage not discourage, and remember that each word that passes our lips should ultimately point to our Savior!
Talk It Out:
- When do you find yourself most susceptible to saying something you wish you wouldn’t have said?
- Do you think the acronym HALT is accurate?
- Besides the five points I’ve mentioned above, what other steps have you found helpful in guarding your lips?
Written by Beecher Proch
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