Learning to Control Our Words
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken at the proper time. Like an earring of gold and a jewelry piece of fine gold, Is a wise person who offers rebukes to a listening ear.” (Proverbs 25: 11-12, NASB)
2020 has been a major year for me in learning to tame my tongue. It started earlier this year when my manager at work started calling me out for speaking harshly on the phone. And maybe I knew it was true, but I didn’t realize how deep my problem ran. I mean, everyone does it at one time or another. I always had an excuse.
But sometimes, God uses completely unspiritual situations to show you something in your character that needs
work. And this was definitely my wake-up call. Once I was made aware that I had a problem, I started realizing that this habit of losing my temper easily or sliding attitude into my delivery had become part of the fabric of the ways I communicated with everyone: my parents, my husband, and my friends. And maybe sometimes, it was a way of delivering a joke or coming across cool and confident, but I realized that I had become way too dependent on being “the blunt friend” or “the brutally honest one.”
And I’m still learning. Some days, my patience wears thin or I allow myself to be less cognizant of the issue, and it peeks out again. But in this journey of learning to bridle my language and speak softly, there have been some really tough moments of self-confrontation.
Do I model Christ in the way I interact?
Do people hear Jesus when they talk to me?
Does God delight in me when I open my mouth to speak?
I won’t lie, it’s been hard when I’ve asked myself those questions and found that I was nowhere near where I thought I was or where I wanted to be. But when I’m in those moments of beating myself up or feeling like I failed at loving Jesus in the way He deserves, I find solace in this thought: I am not the only Christian that struggles with getting my words under control.
There’s no way I could be; not when the Bible is full of scriptures about words– the power of words, the importance of speaking life, and the healing they can bring when they are used in a God-honoring way. And I think anyone can empathize with this fact: words are hard. It’s difficult to find the right ones and it’s even harder to deliver them in a way that people will understand, hear, and respond positively to them. That’s why God gives us countless instructions on how to use them. Because the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). So learning to check our attitude in a way that allows our language to work for the kingdom of God is a big lesson that we all become too comfortable in.
“A word fitly spoken,” is the English way of saying a Hebrew phrase. That essentially means a word that is rightly ordered, circumstantiated, spoken in grace, and in due place. In short, it means a word that ministers to others because tempered by a heart that knows and loves God. It is spoken in such a way that it is received rightly by the listener because Jesus and His wisdom is in the very fabric of it. The words are thought out and intentional, not just thrown away in pettiness or immaturity.
In fact, the rest of our key verse says that words like this are like golden apples on a silver plate; something beautiful to behold. Even if the word is a rebuke, if it is fitly spoken, it will be like a gold earring on the ear of whoever is being rebuked. Why? Because a good, God-given word– even in correction– has the power to heal, strengthen, guide, and rescue the receiver. All this year, I’ve been working on taming my tongue and controlling my language. But how do we break habits so old, we don’t even realize they’re negative? The answer lies in Isaiah 50. “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away” (verses 4-5, NLT).
How do you break an old habit? Form a new and better one. And for me, the only way to begin to break it was to give it up to Jesus and ask Him to help me break it. I had to ask Him to show me when my attitude was changing the conversation in a negative direction. I had to ask Him to convict my heart when I was getting too harsh in my speech; to break my heart the way His breaks when He hears me falling back into my bad habits. And when I found myself getting weak or frustrated, to give me His words instead– to change my heart.
It’s never too late to turn back, friends. You’re never unreachable or unhelpable to the Father. We can only get better day by day. As the verse says, morning by morning, we can have a better understanding of His will, and with His will, we can find His words. When He speaks, we can listen, and then never, ever turn back to where we were before.
Do I still feel myself getting convicted when a conversation starts going south? Yes, but I know that Jesus also sees that my character has changed since I realized my communication issues earlier this year. I know He sees the leaps and bounds I’ve come in the way I address others, and I know He delights in the fact that I’m even willing to course-correct.
It’s the same with you, too. If at any point today, you thought, ‘Me too,’ then start that character development today. Remind yourself that speaking like Jesus with a kind and gentle word does more for establishing God’s kingdom on earth than your harsh words ever could. And the more you work towards that goal, the more you become like that golden apple on a silver platter: beautiful to the Father’s ear and eye.