Taming the Tongue

Published: Jul 19, 2013
Taming the Tongue
Sometimes not saying anything at all is the best approach to diffusing an argument and taming the tongue.

Before marriage, biting my tongue mostly meant stopping myself before I gossiped, cursed or spoke in an unnecessary tone of voice. When I entered a forever relationship with my husband, though, thinking before speaking (or even not speaking at all) became a vital discipline in cultivating an environment in which Andy feels respected and trusted.

In the five years I’ve been married, I would say it’s only been in the past year that I’ve really begun examining the value of ONLY speaking words that are uplifting and beneficial (see Ephesians 4:29). I wish I could say my tongue is officially tamed, but the reality is I struggle with my goal on a daily basis. I am a selfish, prideful person. I don’t always enjoy biting my tongue, but I do always receive a reward, and that reward — knowing that I’m honoring and obeying Christ — is worth sacrificing my pride.

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV)

I want my words toward Andy to be full of love and patience and respect. I want him to be able to talk to me about anything and have confidence that I will respond in a gracious manner. I don’t want to be the kind of wife whose husband is afraid to be vulnerable around. I don’t want to be the kind of wife who rubs her husband’s nose in his past mistakes.

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends,” Proverbs 17:9 (ESV)

The verses that speak the most to me personally about my tongue are the ones that suggest that being exposed to a harsh environment is better than being around a wife who doesn’t have control over her words:

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9 (NIV)

“It's better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” Proverbs 21:19 (NLT)

The imagery of these scriptures makes me giggle, but the message is sobering. I don’t like the idea that my husband would be better off in a place without me! I’ve run to Andy for forgiveness many times after being reminded of these proverbs.

It was following an argument I had with Andy last summer that the Lord revealed something to me about my tongue: unkind words threaten to spill out of my mouth when I allow myself to believe lies about my husband and myself. For me, those lies go something like this:

Your husband doesn’t value your opinion.
You need to let your voice be heard; otherwise your husband will walk all over you.
The problem will never be resolved unless you discuss it right now.
You deserve to be treated better.
You shouldn’t have to be the one to apologize.
He should take responsibility because he’s supposed to be the spiritual leader.
You’re a fool for loving him.

Yikes! While you might identify with having those thoughts, I hope you recognize that they are clearly not from the Lord. Having that revelation last summer really rocked my world. Now that I’m able to recognize those lies (which are essentially manifestations of my own pride issues), I’m able to combat them with words of truth. Sometimes I have to repeat those words of truth ten to twenty times before I feel the anger and hurt leave me, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of the sick feeling that sets in immediately after sinful words fly out of my mouth.

“… the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 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 3:5-6 (NIV)

Insecurities aren’t the only thing that can tempt me to make a snarky remark or voice an annoyance. Sometimes physical exhaustion is all it takes to get the snippy comments going. I’ll watch in horror as my words float across the room and slap Andy across the face, and then it will hit me — I just need to go to bed! I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the advice to “never go to bed angry.” Isn’t it better to go to bed angry and wake up with a clear head than it is to potentially say hurtful things simply because you’re tired?

Maybe you’re the type to get “hangry” (hunger-induced anger). Food and sleep are basic human needs! Learn to recognize your tongue pitfalls and admit them to yourselves and the people around you. My mom knows my dad will get irritable if he doesn’t eat after work, so she fixes him a small snack to tide him over before dinner. I know that I get weepy and irrational if I’m overly tired, so I often send myself to bed early to avoid any potential meltdowns.

Andy and I have reached the conclusion that not talking at all is often the best approach to diffusing our arguments. We don’t give each other the silent treatment, but we’ll disengage from the situation so that we both have the opportunity to shake off whatever is bothering us. I’ll often catch myself about to voice a complaint and then I’ll ask myself is this really necessary, or am I being selfish? Or, I’ll hear Andy say something in a hurtful tone and instead of responding back in an equally hurtful way I’ll choose to think he didn’t mean that — he must be having a bad day. And then I’ll go and give the cute man a kiss. Ta-da, argument averted! Relief and gratefulness from husband achieved! Cheers from heaven gained!

What are you willing to do to practice guarding your speech? Are you aware of the words that pass through your lips? Are there any lies you’re allowing yourself to believe about your spouse? Are you getting the sleep and nourishment you need to be alert to the temptations of your tongue?

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Psalm 141:3 ESV

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Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.