How to Stop Swearing: 10 Ways to Tame Your Tongue
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
Before I knew the Lord, I lacked self-control, especially when it came to my words. When I became a Christian, however, I became more aware of my thoughts—and what came out of my mouth. But with increased language on television and a slip in self-control, I can easily find myself spouting off profanities in a way that dishonors my reputation, as well as my witness for the Lord.
In the book of James, Jesus’ younger brother James spends a lot of time talking about the power and problem of the tongue. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).
So how do we tame our tongues? Here are ten ways to stop swearing so we can have a better relationship with God and others:
1. Understand the Power of Words
If God chose to speak life into being in Genesis, there must be great power in them when we speak words. There is a reason swears are called curse words in the first place. Have you considered you may actually be calling curses down on someone when you swear? If we understood the power of words to breathe life (or bring death) on others, would we actually use them? God new when to speak, and when to stay silent. If we want to be like him, we should too.
2. Pray Before You Say Anything
If I find myself saying things I shouldn’t I need to increase my prayer life, so I can decrease my foul language. Try praying in the morning and giving your day to God. Pray something like this:
Lord, I know I’m struggling with my language. Help me to honor you not only with my actions, but also with my words. Soften my heart so I see people and circumstances with grace and truth as opposed to negativity and anger. Amen.
3. Find Out Where Your Anger is Coming From and Resolve It
Foul language is a sign of pent up anger that is coming out in words instead of actions. What better way to stop that than to resolve the root of the problem? Take a moment and ask God if there are areas of anger you need to resolve? Does it manifest as depression? A short temper? Does your frustration level elevate when you see someone specific? Ask God to identify the specific area of anger. Forgive the people you need to forgive. Throw off the anger that is entangling you. When you do, you may find your tendency to say foul words will decrease.
4. Memorize Scripture about Upright Speech
Ephesians 4:29 is one of the best verses you can memorize when it comes to taming your tongue: “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.”
But there are other verses you can memorize to help tame your tongue: Like James 1:19-20: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Memorizing scripture will help renew your mind. When your mind is renewed the heart will follow. Soon, what will be sitting on the tip of your tongue are words that give life, not ones that curse others.
5. Fill Your Mind and Time with Holy Things
If your tongue is too loose, it may indicate you fruits of the Spirit are not as ripe as they need to be. Make a promise to “water your vine” through service in ministry and regular church attendance, in addition to reading and praying you are already doing. Dedicate a few weeks to just doing things for others. When your mindset is that if being a servant to others, you’ll find your words will be seasoned with grace rather than salt.
6. Start a Swear Jar
A swear jar may be the financial incentive you need. Get a small glass jar and label it “swear jar”. Every time you or somewhere else says something you shouldn’t, put a dollar in the jar. At the end of a month or year, use the money to put it to a good cause.
A great way to redeem a sin that has you ensnared is to use the money to help make a difference in the world, Donate to a charity, give it to the church or find another organization where you can donate it. Or you can use the money to take your family or some friends out on a special trip. Whatever you do, use the money to redeem that which has been tainted through the use of foul language.
7. Monitor What You Watch and Listen To
Foul language pervades most of our entertainment. Anything past a PG rating invites language far from God honoring. But Scripture has something to say to say about this: “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3). Make a point to monitor what you are watching. When you are tired or have slipped on your spiritual disciplines, it’s easy to pop on whatever mindless entertainment will help to pass the time in the evening.
But God wants us to be vigilant the most in the areas where we are weak. If you struggle with swearing, strive to stop watching TV that is not helpful to your heart. Stop listening to music that promote the degradation of God’s creation. Choose to listen to uplifting music and watch inspirational material that sets your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2).
8. Give Up Your Right to be Right
What we believe often comes out in words and actions. When we put others before ourselves, however, we forfeit our right to be right and instead opt to put our relationship with God first. Putting our relationship with God first means we become more like God through spiritual transformation.
This makes us humbler and gentler. In turn, this will help us not lean on harsh words but use gentler ones instead.
9. Count to Thirty (Or Whatever Number You Need)
Swearing often happens when we speak before we think, especially when we are angry. But there is a trick you can try to reduce (or eliminate) the amount of unwholesome talk that comes out of it. Before lashing out, count to thirty (or whatever number you need) to clear your head and not respond in anger.
You may find you still swear a bit, but practicing this regularly is bound to curb your language. Thinking before speaking also develops a good habit of respect and love towards others—even if you don’t agree with what they are saying.
10. Consider Who You Are Hurting
Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, people attribute a certain reputation to someone who swears. They may assume they are uneducated or lazy because they can’t think of anything better to say.
Neither of these attributions may be accurate. You may get back at someone or something through swearing in the short term, but you are only hurting yourself in the long run. Consider your reputation not only as a Christian but as a person. What do you want people to think of you when they see you?
Curbing language you are used to saying can be tough to overcome, just like any sin is. But there’s hope. The key to changing any bad habit in intentionality. If you are intentional about changing your speech, you will succeed—even if you fail the first few times. Try some of the suggestions above or try your own tips. Either way, being intentional about anything in life will yield positive results in your spiritual life, and ultimately your witness for God.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.