Do you struggle to tame your tongue? I know I do! The fruit of the Spirit can help us. Read on to find out how!
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3:6
Oh my ouch.
This verse hits me hard, especially today when my tone has been sharp and my tongue has been far from tame, but if I’m honest, I have to admit my tongue has always been a bit of a problem.
Okay, it’s been a big problem.
Too often, I speak before I think, and sometimes, I think and still speak and not in the right way or with the right words.
And do you know what? I don’t think I’m alone. One of the most popular posts on this site is 10 Verses to Help You Tame Your Tongue. It went as viral as any post I’ve ever written so I think it hit a nerve.
Because we ALL have tongues, and they ALL need taming.We ALL have tongues, and they ALL need taming.Click To Tweet
After all, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.” (James 3:7-8)
Did you hear that? James said “no human being” can tame the tongue so I am not alone. Neither are you.
We can Start with Confession
When we come to confession before the throne of grace, we find ourselves at a loss just like Isaiah. When he saw the glory of God, he cried out:
“Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Apparently, his tongue was a problem, too.
That’s the prayer I found myself praying this morning, and because God is faithful, he cleansed me just like he cleansed Isaiah that day so long ago.
Thank goodness he forgives!
Without his grace, where would we be?
Nowhere good, I guarantee it.
So, I grab hold of that grace because I need it. This morning’s conviction has turned into countless opportunities to live a holy life with a holy tongue today.
And do you know what?
Even with Isaiah’s words in my mind and the Spirit’s conviction in my heart, I still sinned. My mouth was a mess.
Because I need more than just forgiveness. I need help!When it comes to taming my tongue, I need more than just forgiveness. I need help!Click To Tweet
In my heart, I desire to do right. I don’t want to be a freshwater well that filled with brine. My desire is to speak words of life, not death, refreshing those around me and helping hearts to heal instead of hurting them.
I can’t do it alone, and do you know what? You can’t either.
But we CAN do it….through Christ.
The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness
“His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
I believe that and cling to the promise that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
But how? How can we win the war our tongue wages?
First, we have to acknowledge our need, to recognize that it’s God who works in us, “both to WILL and to ACT according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
You see, it’s not ME who wants to do right. It’s the Spirit living in me. He’s giving me the desire to tame my tongue, and guess what? He’ll also give me the power.
So, “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
Remember that he’s already given us everything we need so let’s consider how he can help us in our attempts to tame our tongues.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
As believers, the Spirit is at work within us, and that’s the fruit he’s producing. Consider how each aspect of his fruit in your life can affect your tongue.
Taming Your Tongue With Love
The first test for our tongues is love. Do the words we speak flow from love? 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
What that means is that without love our words are meaningless.
In today’s world, hard words are considered hateful, but that’s not always the case. After all, Ephesians 4:15 teaches us that “speaking the truth in love” helps us grow as the body of Christ and become mature. Speaking truth in love doesn’t tear us down. It builds us up.
When I was young and having disagreements with friends at school, I would come home and tell my mother all about it. She would listen to me rant and rave and explain just how frustrating this or that person had been then she would look me in the eye and say, “Now, Charlie, surely you can find one good thing to say about that person.”
It wasn’t always easy to hear, but she was right because there is always at least one thing that can be said about anyone: They are created and loved by God.
Our Love for God Helps Tame Our Tongues
You see, our words aren’t so much about our love for another person as they are about our love for God As believers, our words speak of him to the world around us, they reflect his words and his ways – even when they shouldn’t. Sometimes, they paint the wrong picture because they are the wrong words, but to others, they still speak of him because we are his.
That’s what it means to be a witness.
If we love him, we have to keep that in mind, and we will find that our love for God can help us keep our tongues in check, even when our love for others can’t.Our love for God can help tame our tongues even when our love for others can't.Click To Tweet
Joy Just Might Be the Answer
My husband came home one day and asked, “Do you hate homeschooling?”
I was shocked because I love homeschooling. I love to learn things with my kids and see them grasp new concepts.
Looking at him, I said, “What on earth would make you think that?”
He replied, “All I hear is how frustrated you are.”
He was right. I had been complaining. A lot. We were struggling in some areas, and I would call my husband to vent and let someone (anyone!) know what a hard time I was having.
The problem is he wasn’t hearing anything positive from me.
He thought I had no joy because my words had none.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it? The temptation to complain. My kids aren’t the only one who do it, and often I just want to scream “Can we all just stop complaining?” And, often, more than anything I mean me.
After all, God has ordained praise from his people. Psalm 8:2 says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
Do you hear that? Praise has power.
The Power of Praise
Psalm 103:1-5 says:
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Repeating his praise puts things in perspective.
It also preaches powerfully.Praise is a powerful preacher.Click To Tweet
Think of Paul and Silas in prison singing praises. Their circumstances called for complaint. I mean, they were in jail. For their faith.
If ever a pair of people could have done like David and poured out their complaints, I think they might be the ones.
But they didn’t complain. They praised.
And God showed up, showed out and brought an entire household to belief.
Praise is powerful.
We Have to Practice Peace
In 2007, we took our oldest daughter to Kenya. She was two at the time, and before we went, countless people asked if we were crazy. They offered unsolicited opinions about the safety of traveling with her to a country in Africa and shared numerous stories they’d heard or read about every possible instance of toddler travel turned trouble.
Two weeks before we left, their fears found a home in my heart.
Walking forward in faith was much harder because of all the worries I’d heard, and though that trip did have some trouble, my daughter’s presence was powerful. God used that tiny tot and taught us so much through her.
Looking back, I learned something about speaking faith instead of fear. There are times to ask questions and admit doubts, but there are also times to push them aside and promote God’s promises instead.
We don’t have to give words to all our worries.We don't have to give words to all our worries.Click To Tweet
As a mom, that is a crucial truth because ignoring it can lead to raising children who fear, and I have been guilty of that. When my son was born and started growing, I had to reign in my worry and my words. He was fearless. I had to learn to let him be brave instead of stifling his freedom with my fear.
I had to learn to fight my fear, and not giving voice to my fearful thoughts was one of the keys to overcoming anxiety. Speaking truth helped me to trust.
(Related: 25 Verses to Help You Overcome Worry)
Letting Patience Play Its Part
When it comes to taming our tongues, patience plays a really big part. I can’t tell you the number of times the words of my lips have lashed out at someone simply because I wasn’t practicing patience.
Whether I speak rude words to rush my children or use a sharp tone with a slow cashier, my lack of patience shows in the words I speak and the way I speak them.
People often say not to pray for patience because God will give you opportunities to develop it, but as moms, it’s important to ask God to provide us with patience because we need endless supplies of it.
I mean, how many times can one kid ask the same question?
How long does it take for a child to learn to tie her shoes?
“E” says “eh” as in “elephant.” Just like it did yesterday.
With little kids, it’s the little things over and over and over again.
To mother well, patience is a prerequisite.
That’s why we have to seek it from the source. It’s easy to forget that God understands the need to have patience with his children. He led them through the desert for forty years, y’all. That’s one long road trip, and his kids complained every bit as much as ours do.
Don’t be afraid to admit your need to God because Jesus, our Great High Priest, knows exactly how it feels to need patience. I can just imagine him throwing up his hands and saying, “How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17)
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Kill It With Kindness
Without patience, it’s hard to be kind. When I’m stressed, my words reflect the tension I feel, but I don’t want them to. I want to speak words that bless others and encourage them, and kind words are the best place to start.
Think for a moment about the last time someone blessed you with kind words. Maybe they were completely unexpected and soothed your soul in some sweet way. It’s amazing what kind words can do.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (New Living Translation)
You know, when I think of how much kind words can mean, I can’t help but wonder why we so often withhold them. Pray that God will help you speak kind words to someone each day, giving you “words to sustain the weary.” (Isaiah 50:4)
Don’t forget Goodness
I have a confession to make: sometimes I say words I shouldn’t. To most of the world, my language wouldn’t even require a PG warning, but I know that there are times my words don’t meet the standard of holiness Christ has set for me.
He said, “Be holy as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
I have to confess that I fall short and ask his forgiveness. Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.”
That’s a verse worth memorizing so that we can honestly say, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
Don’t Fake it – You Need Faithfulness
“But, Mama, you said!”
I’m sure you’ve heard one of your kids say something like that because here’s the truth: sometimes we say things we don’t mean.
Like, “Maybe you can have a piece of candy…later.”
My kids think “maybe” means “no” because they’ve finally caught on to the fact that when I don’t want to answer their questions, I evade them.
That’s just one example of my need to tame my tongue with faithfulness. My word needs to be my bond, y’all.
I need to be consistent. People need to know they can believe that what I say I will do.
I’m a child of God after all, and if there is anything I can say about my Father, it’s this: He’s faithful.
He doesn’t say something then forget like I do. “He is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13)
That’s an example I need to follow.
Gentleness Gives Grace
You know, you don’t have to say unkind words to convey an unkind meaning. The tone of your voices tells all. That’s why gentleness is a giant key to taming our tongues.
It’s also a key to conflict resolution. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
I will be honest and tell you that this is one area in which I fall short faithfully. My tongue is sharp. It always has been, but if anything drives me to committing to tame the tyrant of my tongue, it’s the look in my children’s eyes when I have spoken harshly to them.
How I say something can speak more loudly than the words I actually say, and often, my kids don’t hear the words at all. They hear the anger, the frustration, the impatience – all rolled up in words spoken through gritted teeth and a touchy tone of voice.
I am learning the art of answering with gentleness because often that is all it takes to turn the tide around here. If I answer my kids with anger, their frustration grows, and our interactions escalate. After all, Proverbs 15:18 promises that being slow to anger quiets quarrels.
It also helps heal hearts. In fact, it’s one of the major ways God has healed my heart.
He is gentle, you know. Just think of the words of Isaiah 40:11, which says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.”
God holds us close and helps us. He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
Self-Control Brings Success
When it comes to our words, one thing we have to exercise to tame our tongues is self-control. How many times do you know you need to keep your mouth shut but you open it anyway?
Self-control keeps us quiet.When it comes to taming our tongues, self-control keeps us quiet.Click To Tweet
It isn’t easy though. Self-control requires discipline and effort and power, but here’s the good news: it’s power the Holy Spirit provides!
“For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Do you hear that? You don’t have to do it alone.
But you do have to do it. It’s called “self-control” for a reason.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
Keep the prize in mind, y’all.
A Practical Way to Pray for a Tame Tongue
This post is long enough already, but I want to close by challenging you to pray through the fruit of the Spirit as you pray for God to help tame your tongue. Ask him to convict you quickly when your words don’t match his ways.
I’ve developed a free prayer guide and journal to help you pray in this way. Just join my mailing list below to be sure you don’t miss it!