I’ve been reading character studies lately. Education is excellent, but to me, education without some emphasis on character has the potential to leave one hollow, and full of self. A book that I’m going to be working through with my daughters is “Raising Maidens of Virtue” by Stacy McDonald. The entire book is lessons, examples, and truths behind Godly character. Prior to starting it with them I’ve been spending time reading it, and truthfully, I’ve gleaned a great deal that I need to ponder.
Lately, I’ve been giving tremendous thought to the power of our words. The Scripture is full of verses discussing the misuse of the tongue.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
These are not mild words, my friends! These words are warnings to us as believers and followers of Christ. So often it is easy to be run by emotions and to allow whatever emotion we are feeling dictate the words from our mouths. And yet, in reading James, it is crystal clear the danger in words that are not bridled. What is that bridle? That is Christ…and His word.
When I read the chapter in “Raising Maidens of Virtue” on taming the tongue I became convicted to look at my own life, and my own words. Are my words words that will edify? encourage? speak truth? Or are they simply words that force my agenda and thoughts on another? Are they words that slander another? So often it’s easy to dialogue about relational issues with others, and yet, at that moment we are using our gift of voice to speak poorly at another. Without their defense. Consider these words:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
I’ve learned in my years of leading Bible studies the absolute necessity of not discussing others without that person present. Even in instances where we mean good…like asking for prayers about a situation. Instead of gathering specifics I emphasize keeping the individual protected. Our names are gifts from the Lord. We need to guard our friends names as much as our own. I have those friends. Friends that know that I won’t speak poorly of another. In fact, I pray that when I speak of my husband and family that the words that leave my tongue are words that benefit them. I had a dear friend tell me years ago that when I speak of Todd around others I need to imagine him there. Would he be blessed? or annoyed? or angered at my words?
And that’s why I love that we have a moment of pause. We don’t need to respond immediately. We can step back…breathe…and speak as stewards of our tongues. The world aches for us to fall prey to gossip, self-loathing and bitterness. Boldly stepping the other way requires daily surrender. Once words leave my lips, or in this digital age, my fingertips, I cannot recant them. I pray that our loving God forgives me for all the times where I’ve spoken too quick, judged others, or thought only of self…not seeking to understand.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
That is my prayer.