This post is for those who have trouble taming their tongue. I have a big stupid mouth. I’m very opinionated, I’m quick to speak, quick to anger and slow to listen. It’s a problem. John Calvin says “I consider looseness with words no less a defect than looseness of the bowels” and I’d have to agree with him. I have a hard time taming my tongue and everyday is a civil war in my head… both sides are losing. John Mayer’s song “My Stupid Mouth” has always been one of my favorites because, unfortunately, I can relate to every line. Sure his new stuff is absolute garbage but vintage Mayer is brilliant. He sings honestly about the human condition and it really resinates with me. This song has been my anthem for a few years now. Check out these lyrics and see if you can relate:
My stupid mouth
Has got me in trouble
I said too much again
To a date over dinner yesterday
And I could see
She was offended
She said “well anyway…”
Just dying for a subject change
Oh, another social casualty
Score one more for me
How could I forget?
Mama said, “think before speaking”
No filter in my head
Oh, what’s a boy to do
I guess he better find one soon
We bit our lips
She looked out the window
Rolling tiny balls of napkin paper
I played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shaker
And I could see clearly
An indelible line was drawn
Between what was good, what just slipped out and what went wrong
Oh, the way she feels about me has changed
Thanks for playing try again.
How could I forget?
Mama said, “think before speaking”
No filter in my head
Oh, what’s. A boy to do
I guess he better find one
I’m never speaking up again
It only hurts me
I’d rather be a mystery
Than she desert me
Oh I’m never speaking up again
One more thing
Why is it my fault?
So maybe I try too hard
But it’s all because of this desire
Just wanna be liked
Just wanna be funny
Looks like the joke’s on my
So call me “Captain Backfire”
Oh, I’m never speaking up again
John Mayer does a great job of taking us through the thought process of a loud mouth like me. We say dumb things, we say inappropriate things, and even offensive things. Sometimes out of compulsion, sometimes to be funny, sometimes we’re just too flippant and careless with our thoughts. A lot of times we are just angry and want to lash out.
John starts with the thing that crossed the line, then the awkward aftermath, then the 20/20 hindsight and self-loathing, then the resolutions: I’m never speaking up again. He is especially faithful to the attitude of a loud mouth when he says “one more thing” hahah this is how we try to make peace with ourselves because we know we can’t just keep silent, that’s the whole reason we’re in this mess, so we try justifying our words.
It could be that I’m unique in my predicament so I’ll just share a little bit of my perspective and you can see if any of it sticks.
The worst part about being a loud mouth is the downward spiral. I say something offensive and try to dig my way back out and it just gets worse and worse, sometimes I try to bail on the convo, other times I try to keep expounding on how it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sometimes I think a thousand apologizes will suffice, but each one means less and less. One of the worst approachs I take is when I say something over the line and then try to make up for it through laughter. I still try the laughter approach even though I know it’s the worst because In my head I think that if I can make you laugh we’re all good but is seldom the case. Still, I keep poking and I keep joking and around and around I spiral, circling the toilet bowl.
This happens to me so much and for so many different reasons. I want to be funny so I try to make lots of jokes. As it turns out, not everyone likes joking all the time, and some people just don’t like my brand of humor.
I want to be liked so I speak out about lots of different topics, often stepping on people’s toes or being a know-it-all. This has thee exact opposite effect on people as I want it to, and I should understand that because I especially hate talking to know-it-alls.
I want to be heard because well who doesn’t want to be heard? If you have an opinion most likely you want to share it, especially when you think you have an important insight. But when you’re 24 years old and spend most of your free time reading, your opinion will be a mix of borrowed wisdom and young foolishness. I have a burden to share truth I’ve learned along with restless angst, it’s a weird dialectic of pride and insecurity. There is a time and a place to “share” but even when I know I need to shut up I end up blurting out my oh so enlightened opinion.
I want to be vindicated. When someone misrepresents me, my opinion, my worldview, my perspective, my ministry, my spending habits, my time management… you name it, I want to justify and defend myself. That isn’t always a bad thing but a lot of times it is. Not everyone watches debates in their spare time, and most people don’t see friendly conversations as a battlefield of ideas.
I was recently reminded that I’m my own worst enemy as my tongue bit me in my butt and cost me an important relationship. I would argue that we are all actually our own worst enemies but especially those of us who have a stupid mouth like me. As Matt Chandler says: “Who has lied to you more than you have? Who has hurt you more that you have?”. I think as loud mouths we should get this more than anyone. How many friendships have your loose lips cost you? How many beatings (verbal or even physical) has your mouth cost you? I know that I am for sure my own worst enemy and that my blabber mouth is my weapon of self-destruction.
Whether you’re a diagnosed loud mouth, or your just a mild offender we all know what it’s like to be responsible for a social casualty, so we all need help dealing with our tongues. Let me just go on record stating that I am obviously terrible in this area but I’ve read a good book on the subject.
The Bible speaks about the importance and weight of words over and over again. John, in his gospel, refers to Jesus as the “Logos” which John Calvin translated as “Speech”, and most English translations translate as “Word” (John 1:1). The Psalms tells us that God spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:9). In the gospels we hear Jesus ask the apostles “who do you say I am” (Mark 8:29), and in Romans we know that your eternity depends on how you answer that question (Romans 10:9). So we know that this universe was created through words, and by using words we hear about salvation and put our faith in the savior of the world.
The Bible tells about words in the beginning of history and words in the culmination of history but it also speaks to us about words in the here and now. James gives us a strong depiction of what happens when we don’t master our tongues:
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by he’ll. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” James 3:5b-9
Paul describes the struggle of wrestling with sin, which can easily be applied to slander, gossip, fits of rage, careless words and stirring up strife between brothers:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15) and again “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire. To do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7;18-19).
Can you relate? You know you want to avoid a touchy subject but you accidentally barrel right into it from the get-go. You want to be kind and you end up being extremely rude. You want to hold your tongue and you end up yelling at someone. I know when I read those verses it’s as if they are writing about me.
I still fight everyday to master my tongue. Sometimes I really need to just shut my face. Other times I really need to speak up about an important issue but I need to be calm and speak with wisdom. I seem to be growing at a snail’s pace in this area and I really wish I could exercise more self-control but I am where I am and that means expending energy fighting my tongue in every situation.
After I foolishly give full vent to my spirit I want to crawl in a hole and tape my mouth shut. I want to be kind, I want to be encouraging, I want to speak truth in love but I find my words being mean, deflating and when I speak truth I wield it around like a weapon. I need God’s help every day help me in my own civil war.
I’ve tried a lot of weird techniques and exercises to battle my tongue but the thing that has helped the most has been writing out applicable Bible verses on note cards. I work on memorizing them and I go through them before going into situations where I know I will be tempted to make a fool of myself. If you struggle with taming your tongue, I feel you. There is hope, as you renew your mind, daily studying God’s word, He will continue to transform you into the image of His son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet again the Sunday school answer is the correct one: Jesus is the answer. As we die to ourselves and follow him we will be given the power to act more like him, speaking truth in love, filled with grace and truth. But it’s not easy. It’s a long hard fought battle, everyday.
I hope some of you can relate and realize you’re not alone and I hope God uses my words to stir up your affections for Jesus. Here is the most important part of this post: below are some verses that have been a real help for me and might help you master your stupid mouth.
- Luke 9:23-24: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
- Ecclesiastes 7:21-22: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
- Proverbs 14:29: “whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly”
- Proverbs 18:13: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame”
- Proverbs 19:11: “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense”
- Proverbs 16:32: “whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city”
- Proverbs 12:18: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”
- Proverbs 15:1: “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger”
- Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back”
- Proverbs 26:17: Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears”
- Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom”
- Proverbs 11:12: “whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent”
- Colossians 4:6: “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”
- James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him”
- James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless”
- James 3:17-18: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”
- James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”
- James 1:19-21: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiest and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”