The Taming of the Tongue

by Sharnessa Shelton

Isn't it just amazing how when something negative happens to us, or in our circles of friends, schools, churches, and towns, the news spreads like wildfire?! And we're all usually guilty of joining in on the spreading of it. (You have to practically PAY for any decent news to travel like that!!) How often do we use our words to spread good news? Do we, instead, often join in spreading something that, at that moment is much more 'tasty'? (That's how Proverbs, very aptly, describes gossip.) Proverbs 18:8 of the Message Bible says, "Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?" It truly seems to be a characteristic of human nature to use our words negatively - BUT, God knows this about us, which is why He deals with it as strongly as He does in the Bible.

In James 3:5-6; 9-10 it says, "the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life". Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. WOW!!! Is that heavy or what?! It is SO true, though!! The same mouth that on Sunday morning is singing, 'I could sing of your love forever' is the next moment saying how much they hate so-and-so for what they did, or talking back under their breath to their parents for correcting them, etc.

But, you know, words are sooo powerful. Are we actually aware of just how much impact they truly have? Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) says, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit - you choose." That's big stuff! See, it's OUR choice. We choose what comes out of our mouth. There have been so many times that I've had gabbing sessions about someone with someone else, because it was interesting or whatever, but by the end of it I've felt physically ill! Like I needed a shower to get rid of the disgusting feeling in my spirit, which was affecting my body as well. But obviously it was repentance that was needed, not a shower! Isn't that just amazing to think about, though? That words are so powerful that they affect us physically?! WOW!! And not only that, but they do and will affect those who we are talking about as well! Now that is serious stuff.

I remember a few years ago I was hanging out with the mom of a close friend of mine (she and I were really good friends!), and I was asking her to share some words of wisdom with me, things that God has shown her (she's a very wise woman). And she started talking to me about just how much power our words have. She said, "Whatever you say about someone, whether it be good or bad, in a sense it goes 'flying around' out there, but it will eventually 'land' on that person and affect them one way or another, whether it be a blessing or a curse. It's so important to think about what we say, because there will definitely be repercussions." I was so impacted by that!

We as humans have such a tendency to say negative things about others, whether it be because we've been hurt by them, annoyed by them, or we just don't like them. I've noticed that a lot of conversation-fillers are about someone else, who isn't there, and it's usually in a negative light. Now, I understand that we do need to run things by other people to get advice and wisdom as to what to do in tough situations. But there IS a difference between gossip and seeking counsel. I've heard this definition of gossip, "Gossip is the sharing of information with someone who is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution." So that's a good guide to use in helping us check our motives.

When we're in those situations, whether it be that we're faced with a group of friends who are totally back-stabbing or ranking on someone, or if we've been hurt by someone and are tempted to tell everyone about it to validate your hurt, or if it's just plain gossip, it's soooo important to think twice. Proverbs 15:28 says, "The godly think before speaking; the wicked spout evil words." How much better to pray about it, ask Jesus for grace and wisdom, and be someone who stops gossip dead in its tracks! Instead of participating in verbally slashing the person, we could ask God for the grace to say something positive about that person! Yeah, if necessary we might want to let our friends know we understand their frustration (if it's appropriate), but after that we either don't need to say anything at all, or try to bring some light to the situation, or try to change the subject, or flat out say we don’t feel comfortable talking about the person in that way! But if you (the reader!) are really frustrated with that person, ask God to change what needs to be changed in you first, to help you to be Jesus to them. (And to have the grace to talk to that person about it if necessary.) What a win that would be!!! It says in Proverbs 17:9, "Disregarding another person's faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends." And it's the same principle no matter how close you are or aren't to the person.

Wouldn't it just be amazing to be known as someone who has so much integrity that they don't get sucked into the gossip trap? It will be tough, but you will only be respected for and grow from it! And who knows! Maybe that will spread as quickly as gossip usually does! ; ) James 3:2 (NLT) says, "We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way." That's pretty incredible, isn't it?! Getting a hold of this area of our lives - taming our tongue - will definitely affect and overflow into many other areas of your life as well! So try it today!! Don't be afraid to be different and make a difference!!