‘IF ONLY I could take back what I said!’ Have you ever said that to yourself? Yes, we all struggle to control our tongue. We can tame virtually any animal, the Bible says, “but the tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed.” (James 3:7, 8) So should we just resign ourselves to defeat? No! Consider some Bible principles that can help us to gain more control over this small but powerful body member.
● “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” (Proverbs 10:19) The more we talk, the greater the risk that we will say something foolish or even harmful. Indeed, the unbridled tongue can be like a fire, rapidly spreading hurtful gossip and slander. (James 3:5, 6) However, when we ‘keep our lips in check,’ or think before we speak, we take into consideration the effect our words may have. In this way, we become known for discretion, and we gain the respect and confidence of others.
● “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Others appreciate it when we listen closely to what they say, for in this way we show that we are not just interested but also respectful. But what if someone says something hurtful or provocative? Then we must try to be “slow about wrath” by not reacting in kind. Who knows? The person may have been upset for some reason and may even apologize for his unkind remark. Do you find it hard to be “slow about wrath”? Then pray to God for self-control. He will not ignore such sincere requests.—Luke 11:13.
● “A mild tongue . . . can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15) Contrary to popular perceptions, mildness has strength. A mild answer, for example, can overcome opposition that seems as hard and inflexible as bone, perhaps because of anger or prejudice. To be sure, it can be a challenge to display mildness, especially in a heated situation. So think about the benefits of doing what the Bible says and the possible consequences of not doing so.
Bible principles truly are “wisdom from above.” (James 3:17) When we apply that wisdom to our tongue, our words become dignifying, endearing, and upbuilding—like “apples of gold in silver carvings,” just right for the occasion.—Proverbs 25:11.