We’ve all been there. Those moments we’ve said things and then wished immediately we could take the words back.
The Old Testament book of Proverbs has quite a bit to say about our tongues. Solomon wrote, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).
We’ve all seen or experienced calamity…
We’ve heard, people bash and criticize others.
We’ve heard calamity on the evening news with vitriolic speeches.
We’ve seen calamity on social media as some lash out to attack those with a different point of view.
We’ve witnessed calamity in our churches when people begin to gossip.
The question then is, how can we avoid calamity?
Tucked in Proverbs 15, there are 3 principles to govern our tongues:
Answer with Gentleness (Proverbs 15:1). Gentleness doesn’t seem to be a value that many are running after these days. It seems that sarcasm and snarkiness are more attractive to some. I get it. It can be funny to be sarcastic or snarky, but neither of those are fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, gentleness flows from our lives.
As I have been thinking about this, I’ve been asking God to flow through me with gentleness. I have a strong sense of humor that can at times lead me down the sarcastic path. But I realize as I grow in my relationship with Christ, He wants the Holy Spirit to produce more gentleness in me so that it flows out of me. Paul wrote, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5).
Ask for Discernment (Proverbs 15:14). Not every conversation needs your opinion. At times, for the benefit of the unity of the body of Christ, it’s better to remain silent when you disagree. I remember that missionary Amy Carmichael governed herself by three rules when it came to conversation:
Is it True?
Is it Kind?
Is it Necessary?
Many things might be true, and at times we can even rationalize that it is kind, but the kicker is often, is it necessary? I’m trying in my conversations to keep an underlying conversation going with the Lord, asking Him to direct what I say and what I don’t say. Many times I feel a strong check in my spirit to say nothing.
Adopt a Gracious Attitude (Proverbs 15:26b). Graciousness is both forgiving and welcoming. If you cultivate a gracious attitude, your words will follow the thoughts in your head. Grace will flow from your lips. Here we need to ask ourselves a few questions: Is your speech forgiving? Do people feel and experience you as a gracious person? Or, do they experience you as a judgmental, opinionated person? Honestly, they’re uncomfortable. A good way to figure out if your speech is gracious is to keep a notebook and for two days write down every time you are critical of another. If you find yourself criticizing lots of people, chances are you are judgmental.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our attitudes and to form in us the heart of Jesus. Honestly, it’s a lifelong journey. However, as we continue to bow down and ask Him to change us, He will give us gentleness, a heart of discernment, and a gracious attitude.
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