The Bible writer James says that the tongue is “an unruly injurious thing” that “is full of death-dealing poison.” (James 3:8) James was aware of this vital truth: An unruly tongue is destructive. Undoubtedly, he was familiar with the Bible proverb that compares thoughtless words to “the stabs of a sword.” In contrast, the same proverb says that “the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) Indeed, words can have a powerful effect. They can hurt, or they can heal. What effect do your words have on your marriage mate? If you asked your spouse this, how would he or she answer?
If hurtful speech has crept into your marriage, you can change the situation for the better. However, effort will be required. Why? For one thing, there is the imperfect flesh to contend with. Inherited sin exerts a negative influence on the way we think about and speak to one another. “If anyone does not stumble in word,” James wrote, “this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.”—James 3:2.
In addition to human imperfection, family environment plays a role in the misuse of the tongue. Some people were raised in homes where parents were “not open to any agreement, . . . without self-control, fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) Often, children who grow up in such an environment display similar traits when they become adults. Of course, neither imperfection nor deficient upbringing provides an excuse for harmful speech. Being aware of these factors, though, helps us to understand why restraining the tongue from speaking what is injurious is particularly challenging for some.