In our small group Bible study, we are covering the book of James. We have covered more than half the book now, and I just love it. James is such a practical book, with a TON of things we can all apply right now where we are in any stage of life. I have really enjoyed working through it, learning some of the background of the author, and really just seeing how I can be better in my Christian walk.
The things we are discussing and learning about in our small group I have learned since I was very young. Growing up in church means you hear many of the same lessons from the Bible over and over. As a kid, this can seem boring and cause you to daydream and not really absorb much. Then, fast forward to my adult life as a Christian, and I really have not applied anything I have been taught or read, which means I don’t have much to strive to work on. And then I think I am doing ok
I am a mom and realizing I have never really gotten a lot of my vices under control. I won’t go into detail on how ridiculously sinful I am, I do want to share something I have never truly worked on and have (yet again) begun to regret.
If we have never talked in real life, you may not know this. BUT, if you have ever spoken with me, you probably know I am no good with words. I speak faster than I think, I am not really witty, I often make jokes at others’ expense. I have never been great with words. Encouragement is NOT my spiritual gift, and I think that has caused me to never really focus on controlling my tongue. My gift isn’t in encouragement, so it doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it. I would never come out and say that, but that is pretty much how I live. I have worked on how I speak to my husband, and I feel like I am growing in that area. I have worked a little on how I speak and what I say to the kids….aaaand, I still need to be working on that one.
The one thing I have not ever focused on is how I speak to other people. I just say things, and then I regret them. This past weekend, I attempted a joke at one of my sisters and it was horrible. First, it wasn’t even funny because….I am awful with words. Second, it struck a nerve with her and caused her to cry. I cannot remember the last time I made one of my sisters cry. (Mom, no need to jump in here with the date. I am aware I did it a lot when I lived at home.) 🙂
I felt so bad as soon as I saw her face. Thankfully, no one around even understood my attempt at the joke; I guess I can be thankful that words do not flow well out of my mouth. But, the point is, I said something stupid and hurtful without even realizing it while I was saying it. I apologized, and she forgave me….but, I can’t go back and put a filter on my mouth. I can’t go back and stop myself from sounding stupid.
James tells us in chapter 3 verse 8 “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Proverbs 21:23 says “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Proverbs 18:21 states “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
There are many passages in the Bible that talk about our tongues, our words, what we are saying. Obviously it is a serious matter if the Bible has covered it so extensively. I searched online for verses about the tongue, and one of the results showed 84 verses! Clearly the tongue is a challenge and something I need to pay better attention to.
I have a desire to be liked, and one of the ways I find people like me is if I am funny; however, I am not great at being funny. My mom and dad are funny. My siblings are funny. Me? Not so much. I am better at cleaning and baking than being funny. 😉 I should probably just stick to what I am good at, honestly.
So, while I have heard and learned about the tongue many times growing up and even as an adult, I still am so awful at doing it. No filter. No thought before I speak. No control.
James says no one can control the tongue. He says it is like a small spark that sets a whole forest on fire (3:5). Think about that – one small spoken word can ruin someone. One lie. One mean statement, whether true or false. One word to describe someone. The tongue is powerful enough to ruin someone’s entire life. Bullies use words to demean and ruin their victims. And here I am using words without thinking first, which I guess makes me a bully by default.
After starting this study with our small group and now the incident from this past weekend, I have learned a couple of things:
1.I need to STOP and think before I say anything.
Giving myself some time to think through what I am going to say, BEFORE I say it, is always a good thing. I can decide if it is even worth saying.
2. I need a filter.
We have a sign posted in our kitchen to remind us of what to consider before we speak. Apparently, I need to pay better attention to it!
3. I have to remember the power of my words. I can either build someone up or tear them down.
There is no point in trying to be funny if it is going to hurt someone’s feelings. I have heard “your child’s inner voice will be whatever they hear from you, the parent.” That is kind of scary, when I think of how hurtful I can be with my words. And when James compares the tongue to a fire, it is a strong reminder (ok, slap in the face) that our tongues can literally ruin a life.
While I cannot go back and un-say all the stupid or hurtful things I have said, I can go forward and work on stopping myself, filtering myself, and reigning in the power of my words. Obviously, this will not be something I can do on my own. I will need to go to God for overcoming this. Here’s how I plan to stay on top of it:
1.Be in the Word every day and work to memorize more Scripture.
Knowing what God’s Word says about my words and my tone and my tongue are a good start. How can I know how to act if I don’t know what HE says?
2.Share my struggles.
Whether I talk to my husband (which I usually do first) or my mentor or my mom or my sister….I need to share what I am struggling with to have some accountability for my actions and words. I am really good at assuming I will figure stuff out on my own; I don’t like to be told what I am doing wrong or how to fix it. That is not a good way to live. Marriage and mentorship have really helped me start to correct that. I tell you what, my mom is full of wisdom…but for the longest time I just viewed it as something moms say. Then I grew up 😉 and realized she really does pray for us kids and is pretty wise when it comes to the Bible. The things I used to see as her just telling me what to do were, in fact, godly counsel. It just took me foooorrreeevvverrr to realize it. If you struggle with something, tell someone. Find a godly mentor and share your struggles. They can steer to you Bible passages to help you curb a bad habit or get control over an area in your life with the Lord’s help. They can also pray with and for you, which is such an encouragement to me personally.
3. Put it into practice…NOW.
I have this habit of reading something in the Bible, thinking of ways to apply it to my life…and then never applying it. Knowing what I know about the tongue and my words really makes me responsible to APPLY it. I can’t say I didn’t know. I can’t say I have never heard of controlling my tongue. I know it, I have heard it, I have studied. I must DO it. I can’t wait for the perfect setting or a calm moment or a sunny day. I have to get into the habit of stopping and filtering and praying and controlling this tongue. I have to make it a habit to rely on the Lord to help me….starting this next time I open my mouth. Waiting til my kids’ runny noses are gone or until I have had a good 8 hours of sleep just won’t do. Putting it into practice should start as soon as I learn it. Reading the Bible and sharing my struggle should propel me into action now. So, I need to get to it. Hurting my sister’s feelings this weekend really opened my eyes to how much I slack in that area and really how much more I need to be aware of my words and the power of them. I have the tools to do it; I just have to use them!
Do you struggle with your words? Do you have trouble with stopping, filtering, and understanding the power of your tongue? Please tell me I’m not alone! 😉