Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese
I have always been a transparent, straight-talking person. When I’m in a good mood, I find someone to share my joy with. When things don’t go my way, I make sure that those around me hear of my grievances.
For a long time, when I was upset, I would also make snide, self-deprecating remarks. I used to joke about how it was like “stabbing myself with a dagger” every so often, which I used to think was a cool thing to say.
I never felt there was anything wrong with what I said until I started to understand the power of our speech. The Bible tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). When we go back to the start of creation, we find that God created the universe simply by speaking. God said, “Let there be light”—and there was light. Indeed, there is astonishing power in God’s words. We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and that’s probably why the Bible describes our tongues as having the power of life and death.
Slowly, I began to realize that words I blurted out and believed to be harmless had an impact on my life and the people around me. I used to casually mention that I did not want to live beyond 40 and that I was a depressed person. I did not realize that what I said was like a curse to myself.
Our nonchalance and lax attitude towards our speech may have allowed the devil to gain a foothold in our lives. It shows when we start committing various sins with our tongues, such as gossiping, complaining, lying, etc. Most of us know how difficult it is to control our tongues, yet we seem to get a kick out of saying something without any restraint—only to regret later. Perhaps that’s why some of us have not made any progress in our spiritual lives for a long time.
The Bible says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3: 10-11)
With that reminder, I began to be more attentive about the things I wanted to say. What I discovered scared me: more than half of what I intended to say were destructive in nature. No wonder I would often lose control of my emotions and slip into anxiety and depression. My words had hurt myself and the people around me greatly. And each time I went overboard, I would start to reproach myself again. I would feel unfit to be a Christian. I would even feel too ashamed to come before God.
As I decided to tame my tongue, instances arose where I found myself tempted to lapse back into my old ways. Immediately, I would remind myself not to fall into those traps and try to find better ways to convey what I intended. This has helped me to prevent many unnecessary conflicts and to control my temper. Before this, I would always get into arguments with my father. Every time we spoke, the atmosphere would be tense and any little thing could trigger a conflict. His nagging would get on my nerves and I would retaliate by saying, “You are really annoying!” or “I am going to move out right now!” Following that, our arguments would escalate and our words would hurt each other deeply.
Ever since I made the effort to be more conscious about my speech, I was able to communicate with my father in a calm manner and even encourage him. By God’s grace, we now have a harmonious relationship.
I have also tried to point out to my parents lovingly when they make unkind comments and encourage them to avoid such speech, to prevent the devil from gaining a stronghold. These days, I have seen much improvement in their speech. When we are free, we would even spend time in prayer and study the Bible together, spending time with our heavenly Father.
Controlling our tongue may sound like a difficult task, but let’s remember that we can rely on the Holy Spirit for help. The Holy Spirit not only gives us the motivation to do good but also the ability to do so. What we have to do is to desire a change and pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen us. In Christ, we are already victorious.
This new year, let’s work together to control our tongues!