Our tongue can be both a blessing and a curse because it holds great power. It is such a small part of the body but can greatly impact our lives and those it reaches. The Bible has a lot to say about the tongue.
James warns us of the the potential evil influence of the tongue.
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, 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. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” – James 3:3-8
While unfortunately the tongue can cause hurt and chaos if not brought under control, it can also be used in many positive and powerful ways. Proverbs is full of statements about the importance of using the tongue for good and the power of the tongue when used to bless others.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” – Proverbs 10:11
“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.” – Proverbs 10:21
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18
In just a few verses we see potential for our tongues to be a fountain of life, nourish many, and bring healing! I definitely want to be known for using words that are life giving and healing versus using my tongue for sarcasm, judgment, criticism, or hurt.
These verses were written about the spoken word and the impact of what we speak toward other people. However, in this age of technology our voices have greater and wider impact than ever before. Now we can tweet something that potentially hundreds of thousands of people can read and receive in real time. Now, more than any other time in history, we hold a tremendous power to influence and encourage those around us.
This means more than ever we need to practice a few disciplines when we communicate with others.
1) Pause. Before you send that email, text, or post on social media take an extra second to think it through one more time.
2) Remember your audience. Is this being sent to your coworkers, your family, a group of friends, or the general public? Does it contain information that you are truly comfortable with your audience knowing? Really consider if what you are sending or saying is meant for this particular audience.
3) Check your filter. Is what you are about to communicate going to be positive and life-giving to the person or people who receive it? We want our words to nourish and encourage, so filter your communication through that lens. If it may be received negatively or could be confusing in the message it conveys, then perhaps you need to filter it or just wait to communicate. Particularly when dealing with written communication, it is extremely important to use a filter because things can be easily misunderstood.
4) Consider the method. If you are communicating about a sensitive topic or something that could possibly be misunderstood, then it would be wise to try to talk face to face or at least via the phone with the other person. A difficult conversation should not take place through text, email, or social media. So much can be expressed through a person’s voice and facial features. It is very easy to be misunderstood and hurt someone’s feelings when you don’t talk face to face.
We should be different in many ways as Christ-followers but especially in the way we communicate with others. It can be a great challenge resisting the tendency to slip into impatience, sarcasm, gossiping, and negative talk. However, as Christ-followers we really can impact others simply by choosing to build others up with our words (Ephesians 4:29). It isn’t easy, but the relationships that can be built as a result of the way we choose to communicate can have eternal impact.