On Holding One's Tongue  

Posted by Benjie

Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard was, “Hold your tongue.” Now as a kid I was apt to follow that instruction literally and try to capture my tongue between the thumb and forefinger and follow-up by asking the advisor, “Li’ diff?” But as I grew older, I discovered that it is sometimes better to hold one’s peace for a time rather than speak out immediately. Why? Because we all have a tendency to say more than is necessary at all times.

James addresses it this way: “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. . . .The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (3:5-8)

We really need strength to control our speech—keeping us from boasting, lying, gossiping, name-calling, and all sorts of hate-mongering. Some people pride themselves on having a sharp tongue, but find that they are driving away friends. Others feel they are gifted with a golden tongue, but often discover that pyrite has moved in to replace the real thing. Here is another piece of advice that should stand us all in good stead, “Think before you speak.”

The old wag has said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, we should use them accordingly.” How often do we need to listen, to get all the information, before joining the conversation? When we are told not to “give false testimony against [our] neighbor,” we need to be sure that we are doing several things:
 Always speaking the truth
 Refraining from any malice in anything that we do tell
 Gathering all the facts before opening our own mouths
 Lifting up, not tearing down

We do not have to participate in gossip sessions, nor are we required to listen when falsehoods are being spread about our neighbor. On the contrary, we should make sure that we have all of our facts straight when joining a discussion and challenge others to do the same. How long has it been since you interjected a note of defense for a brother or sister who was being torn down by the crowd? Sometimes the sin of silence is worse than the sin of participation. Are we holding our tongues when we ought? Are we speaking when it is right? And when we speak, are we speaking the good word?

This entry was posted on 13 November 2006 at 1:34 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 Reader Response(s)

I struggle with this, often wishing I could take back words.

I do a silent retreat yearly. 5 days of saying nothing. The problem is, when I am quiet God speaks and I don't always like what He says!

6:22 PM

I always find that I'm saying more than I need to. I blame the preacher in me, but I'm sure it's just the sinner in me.

Great idea on the talking fast. How does it work with the wife and kids?

6:37 PM

Post a Comment