Holding your tongue isn’t enough

Exactly how many Proverbs extol the benefits of taming one’s tongue? As a concept that rolls over far into the New Testament, and Luke 6:45 says “Out of the abundance of the heart / the mouth speaks.”

I believe it is good to show restraint, and have a holy form of self-control in all things, but is that all? What if restraining what comes out of our mouths is not fully addressing the root of the problem?

What if we keep our mouths shut not because we are trying to allow God to make us more holy, but because we believe that shutting up will solve problems we have to communicate to work through? What if seeing mouth = shut as good and mouth = open as bad doesn’t allow us to report abuse? Is the issue keeping our mouths open, or is it having good things to say in the first place? Could it be an issue of balance, and be both? What do y’all think?

Anger can sometimes be helpful in alerting us to injustice. We don’t have to respond in anger, but anger can certainly be a sort of smoke detector for emotions we may not be able to express otherwise. To me, controlling the tongue seems more about not being poised to fly off the handle and not being someone who sets off fires that destroy relationships. I know that there is probably more there. What happens when we are tempted to say something various times that we know is unfair, but we are so upset about it (a perceived injustice) that it’s clouding our good judgment? Is it enough to just shut up? If you’re mad, shouldn’t you express that anger in a format or to a friend in a way that will not hurt anyone, and then rebuke that sin? Because from my experience, sitting on sin doesn’t resolve it. You cant offer up what you deny exists. In that case, is taming our tongues more like a primary line of defense, or quality control? You can be upset or annoyed over something, simmer down, and resolve the issue with appropriate measures of time and patience.

As humans, we are often wrong when we get mad at others (subject matter) and again wrong in the execution of what we perceive as justice (manner of addressing the problem). Although guarding your tongue is sage advice, I think it may also have to do with cultivating the types of things that give life by saying, both to you and to your audience. You can’t do that if you are allowing sin to grow in your heart through anger, just like it does no good to spread it by opening one’s mouth. The process of holding one’s tongue could be one of those processes that is soul-deep, and should be addressed at the root of the sin equally if not more than how it comes out.

In the spirit of full disclosure, these are casual thoughts I’ve just happened upon, not the fruit of much scholarship or deep digging. If you have thoughts and would like to add a constructive comment, be my guest. I would love to hear from y’all.


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I am a second-grade teacher and pastor-to-be who loves people. I spend my weekends with friends or wandering the museums of DC alone and with a journal, trying to put words on the places of the soul that still feel wordless. I spent most of my days at school trying to learn patience through my students and running on sheer nerdy passion. I follow Jesus Christ, and savor that as my most important identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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