We had been traveling seven hours in the car- then it happened- I lost the plot. I turned around and began to angrily vent my frustration toward my three young sons in the back: “Can you boys just stop fighting… can’t you be quiet for just five minutes…can’t you see mum and dad are trying to have a conversation!.”
My wish was granted, there was deadening silence, but my conscience started to feel a gnawing guilt. Then it dawned on me- once again- I had lost control of my tongue. If only I could take those words back, if only I had just thought before I spoke- but I hadn’t.
If only I had followed the specific instructions the Bible provides on how to control our tongues. First it tells us we must stop before we speak. It says in Proverbs 10:19: ‘… he that refrains his lips is wise’ and in James 1:19 it says we should be: ‘…swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath’. This can be difficult, as often we are controlled by our emotions such as hurt, fear, sadness or anger. We are also often controlled by the desires within us like vengeance, appreciation or control.
However, in spite of these seemly insurmountable obstacles God’s commands are God’s enabling.
Applying this wisdom to my above car scenario, I should have resisted the strong urge of anger, and quelled my desire to control and at least initially bridled my tongue. This time would have allowed my anger to de-escalate and my desire to control to fade, and afforded me the time to pray for the Holy Spirit’s strengthening.
Jesus also had some wise council regarding the tongue, he said in Luke 6:45: ‘…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ In other words, what’s in my heart will be manifest itself in how I speak. Just like whatever gets soaked up in a sponge will come out when squeezed, so whatever is in our hearts will come out when the pressure of life squeezes us. Therefore, it is wise to reflect what is going on in our hearts before we speak. For example, asking yourself: what is motivating me to say what I’m about to say or what am I thinking in my heart at that time are often helpful questions.
In the above case, my heart was not right before God, and my sons were selfishly treated as irritants to my comforts and getting in the way of my plans. I had not considered their context and how difficult it must have been for them sitting in the car so long. Hence, repentance for my sinful heart was needed before my confrontation with them.
Finally, after stopping our tongues and reflecting on our hearts, the Bible instructs us to select certain words that are appropriate to the situation. For example, in Ephesians 4:29 it says that our words are to edify, this carries the meaning of building up. In my encounter with my sons, I needed to select words that build them up, not tear them down. Perhaps I should have praised them first for doing so well, considering they has been in the car so long.
I don’t plan on going on any long road trips soon but if I do I will be certainly writing the words Stop, Reflect and Select on my hand before I leave.
Steven Kilner is married to Jodie and has three sons, they have a eight year-old, a six year-old and a three year-old. They attend Canterbury Gardens Community Church. Steven is studying theology at PTC and Jodie is undertaking a diploma in Nursing.