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Don't Bite Your Tongue

by Mary Ann Halcrow

I have a problem. It’s not until you try to fix a problem that you realize how deep the issue runs and how hard it is to change. So, here’s the difficulty: I can say anything witty, sarcastic, self-deprecating, or work related and professional, but I choke when I have to say something that is really heart-felt. My voice literally cracks sometimes if I try to say something that you could say “aww” to.

I have been giving a lot of thought to my, so called, humour or witty comments. Are they really hurting someone? You know what they say, “behind every joke there is a little bit of truth.” Do my words hurt other people? Sometimes. Do I mean to hurt other people? Sadly still, maybe sometimes. Do I want to change? Yes. How do I accomplish this? Well, mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But, I’m already more of an observer than a talker. I cannot get quieter! I try to bite my tongue and depending on the day, I go home with deep grooves. Sometimes my tongue should be bleeding because I have bitten it all day! Maybe the answer is - quit working! All kidding aside, the answer I’m finding, is so much deeper.

Recently I read a booklet that was shared with me (my husband said I should read it! What do you think he meant?). It’s called Guarding the Tongue by Dean and Susan Wheelock. On the cover is this quote: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). The next page quotes Psalm 34:12-14, “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Now, still on page 1, the next quote from Scripture is: “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). This is a good start to addressing my problem and I only have about 40 pages left to go!

The visual I have is of a chronic, spiritual infection that slowly dulls the peripheral nerves so that we don’t feel the pain. Since this “infection” is spiritual, we cannot see the awful disfiguration on the outside. The tongue reveals what is going on inside us. The “spiritual bacteria” fester quietly at first but when a critical mass is reached, we hear it coming from the tongue. When I think of this as spiritual bacteria, I can better understand the words in Proverbs 18 about separating friends and the warning in Proverbs 6 about sowing discord among the brethren.

I need to find a cure. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic using numerous words – tongue, mouth, slander, accusation, backbiting, false witness, speaking, speech, venomous and destructive – to name a few that you will find in a topical Bible or concordance. So, I can learn to bite my tongue on those topics but that still is more of a bandage than a true cure for the problem.
The cure is found in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.”

James 3:2-10 reminds us that even though the tongue is small it actually contains a significant amount of power. Also consider Proverbs 12:18 which says, “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Unfortunately, there is not a quick “tongue vaccine”­—one shot, a little skin irritation for a day or two and you are protected for life! It must be learned by changing how you think and what you think about. Everything in life is learned and what makes us good at anything is practice, practice, practice!

They say that before you can run you have to walk so, maybe for now, I can learn to write nice things and then read them out loud, so my tongue learns to form the words and they become more natural.  One day I will say only the nicest things all the time!

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