As you've seen from Kyla and Mary Kate's posts, troubles with "controlling the tongue" are universal.
"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless." -James 1:26
You probably don't need to be told that the tongue is a weak-spot (or, as James so eloquently puts it, "a fire, the very world of iniquity"). The fact is that we know our faults, we are desperate to get ride of them, but it slips our minds. You know the scenario—you say something you definitely didn't mean to say, and then of course that's when you think of James 3, after the damage is already done. Sometimes it feels like we just can't help ourselves.
And you know what? That's the truth! We can't help ourselves. Only Christ can help us up when we fall down, and only He can help us from stumbling again. You can try reminding yourself, you can employ the suggestions that I include at the end of this post, but when it comes right down to it no amount of mind-games can be a substitute for complete surrender to God. We must recognize that the tongue is your enemy, get a glimpse of God's will for you—a mouth that speaks love to all—and surrender to the Lord and pray diligently for His Spirit to change you.
He is the potter, we are the clay. God is molding all of us into the image of his Son. Isn't that awesome? Yes, it's going to hurt; think about how the lump of clay feels when it's spinning around and around that wheel, getting poked and prodded into all kinds of unnatural shapes. It can't be pleasant, but the result is so worthwhile. You'll keep falling down, we all do, but the point is to repent and get back up and go on. That is how we change.
If you've handed your tongue over to God (figuratively, of course), here are a few practical tips that might help you to control it in the future:
- Wear a reminder bracelet. I learned the power of this method when I took the Complaint Free World challenge. Switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other whenever you catch yourself saying something that dishonors God. Set a goal time period (a solid week, for example) and "reset" every time you switch. Keep going back to Day 1 until you fulfill the whole week.
- Write it down. Instead of forgetting those slips of the tongue, write them down. This isn't meant to be a guilt-trip (God chooses not to remember our sins, neither should we), it's just a tool to reveal patterns, weak points, and "triggers." After a week look over the record and make some changes.
- Take baby steps. Don't try to tackle everything at once! Focus on one aspect of the tongue—criticism, for instance—then memorize a few scriptures on it, watch yourself, and pray continually that God will change you in this area.
- Read a book. I'm sure that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on this subject. Here is one with many five-star reviews: 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue.
Question: What is your #1 slip-up? I would say that mine is either criticizing or being combative.