Taming Your Tongue
By: Betsy St. Amant Haddox
"[B]ut no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 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 come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." - James 3:8-10, ESV
Perhaps no one in our life inspires more words from us than our spouse. Sometimes those words are loving, gentle, and affectionate. Those are the nights when the dishes are done, the kids are in bed on time, and you're piled up on the couch rubbing each other's feet or watching a movie. You know, those rare occasions when you're living out the ideal idea of what you thought marriage would be like! Other times, those words we use are wounding, piercing and offensive. Those are the nights when nothing seems to be going right, you're out of dog food again, and one of the kids just flooded the bathroom. You know, those too-frequent occasions when marriage is harder than you expected!
Let's be honest - sometimes, we spout off on our spouse because it feels safe. We think "it's their fault anyway" or "they have to love me anyway" so we go ahead and verbally blow off steam. In doing so, though, we justify our sin. Yikes!
Regardless of our reason or motivation, or however justified we can try to twist the situation to be, the book of James tells us this double-edged sword should not be so. Our tongue--our words--should be used to uplift, build, and encourage each other. That's including our spouse. You've heard the phrase "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This is true in marriage, but so much harder to apply when we're angry, offended, and the person we love the most has wounded us the deepest. We want to lash out in return. We want to hurt them back.
But what if we resisted that urge, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and spoke life instead?
There have been several times during arguments with my husband where we've both escalated further down that path of anger than we intended. We both spoke hurtful things, emotions rode high, and everything seemed red. At that moment, my flesh wanted to express the brunt of my offense and hurt by keeping on digging that never-ending hole deeper. But by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit stopped me and offered me a way out through the temptation. The Spirit reminded me, even though my emotions raged, my enemy was not my husband. It provided just enough of a window for me to grab my husband's hand, mid-sentence, and start praying out loud instead. He went pretty stiff, and my prayer was initially through gritted teeth, but by the time I reached the end of it, I was crying, he was compassionate, and our hearts had softened toward the Lord and each other. We had finally lined up the right enemy in our target.
Maybe you and your spouse don't have big fights. Maybe your arguments are more sarcastic and passive than loud and verbal. But the same truths still apply. Cutting words are cutting words, whether they are yelled or whispered, impulsive or planned. As these verses in James points out, your spouse is made in the image of God. That acknowledgment carries a responsibility of respect and honor. Next time you're in an argument with your spouse, try to bring the boiling emotions to a simmer. Take a step back, and ask the Lord to show you how He sees your spouse. Look through His eyes at the person you committed to love a lifetime, and remember there is a very real enemy who is out to destroy your marriage and the image it bears of Christ.
This is an application that takes time and discipline, but is well worth the effort. Remember, you're one flesh and on the same team. Encourage each other! Use your tongue for good, and not evil. Build up your spouse. After all, you're the single person they most long to hear those positive words from.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of fifteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her drummer of a hubby, two story-telling young daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of pickle chips. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she's not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with HarperCollins, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES, and POCKET PRAYERS FOR FRIENDS with Max Lucado. Visit her at https://betsystamant.com.
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