Tongue Taming

LionNever had a desire to be a lion tamer. Yet, I feel like that’s more of a possibility than my becoming a tongue tamer. At least there’s a process, a method that works with taming lions. With tongue taming, I feel like a wild beast prowls around in my mouth constantly roaring to life with no sense of civility.

Truth is, a lion isn’t really ever tame. In a 2003 interview on Larry King Live, animal expert Jack Hanna told guest host Nancy Grace that “A wild animal’s like a loaded gun, it can go off at any time. You can usually train a wild animal, never tame a wild animal. You have to remember that. You can never tame one.”

Perhaps the same holds true for the tongue. Perhaps just like a lion can be trained, so too can the tongue, but neither really ever become tame. In fact, many seemingly tame lions have hurt and even killed people, and the reality is that our words often do the same.

But even though James 3:8 says that man cannot tame the tongue, we also must contend with what he said just six verses earlier.

Taming 3

Is James saying that if it were possible to control the tongue, it would be possible to have self control in all other areas, but because taming the tongue isn’t possible, neither is complete self control?

Most people would admit the need in at least some area of life for more self control, and certainly this universal need provides every person with motivation to tame the tongue, right? But James DID say in verse 8 that taming the tongue IS IMPOSSIBLE.

Fortunately, as we pointed out in Idle Words, God is in the business of the impossible. And He provided tons of instruction in His Word about how to make that happen. (Just a glance at Proverbs illustrates this.)

Romans 7-8 talk about how we are united with Christ and because of this are able to produce good fruit. Also because of this, we serve God by His Holy Spirit and not on our own. On our own, the old nature rules, and taming the tongue is impossible.

But Jesus bought control over our sin nature, which makes us able to live and be led by the Spirit. In fact, it makes us conquerers over our sin nature.

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The answer, then, to taming the tongue lies with being overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed with God, when we allow His Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, the impossible becomes possible, and our tongues become increasingly tame. As we focus on gaining wisdom from above that guides and directs our new natures, our lives then live in the overflow of that which exists within us.

As we focus on Christ, the impossible happens. As His Words fill our hearts, His wisdom then comes out in our words to others. Then, we are no longer speaking the words of our flesh, but instead the words of life He gives us to speak.

As we gain wisdom and operate in our new natures, we not only focus on Him and live thankful for His grace and mercy, we also become aware of what to avoid in order for our tongues to remain life-giving creatures instead of caged animals.

With tame tongues guided by our new natures which are led by the Holy Spirit, we learn to…

Our words become full of thanksgiving as they reflect the gracious nature created within us as the impossible becomes a living reality both in the atmosphere of the inner self and then overflowing through every word we speak (Colossians 3).

DISCUSSION: How do we become overwhelmed with God to the point of “overwhelming” victory with our tongues?

Idle Words

In a say-what’s-on-your-mind culture, words get flung around, overlooked and trampled like a penny on the ground. Does this mean that our words are becoming obsolete like the penny?

Some people seem to talk just to hear the sound of their own voices. Some talk to draw attention to themselves, good or bad. Others talk in an attempt to prove intelligence, and still others talk as if searching for their own value.

For certain, the more words spoken, the less words heard. At least, the more I talk, the less my kids listen and the more they seem to grow distant. The value of words seems to decrease the more words spoken.

If the value of words is declining, why bother?

Why bother thinking about if Words Matter, if Tone Matters, or if Timing Matters? What’s the point of considering why you should Check Your SourceHere’s why:

Idle 1

That’s right, EVERY word. Not some. ALL OF THEM. Every lazy, thoughtless, pointless word. Every emotionally-wrought word. Every utterance coming out of our mouths. That’s why we bother with considering our words carefully.

Jesus also adds this statement about the impact personally of our words.

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Perhaps Jesus’ words here are why James says,

Idle 3

Not only do the words we speak as well as how and when we speak them either strengthen or damage relationships, they also determine the status of our lives after we die. Yes, Jesus is ultimately referring to our words about Him, but doesn’t every aspect of ourselves reflect on our relationship with Him? Our words tell of the state of our inner lives, our hearts, and it is this condition with which God is most concerned.

A blog friend and regular commenter on this site expresses the idea this way:

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Knowing that my words convict or justify me, that they define my character, and that I will be held accountable for every single one of them, motivates me to constantly use caution with my words as well as to continually improve their value. But then I read James 3 and feel defeated, just one verse of it actually.

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Does this mean my efforts to guard my words are useless? Am I in a battle I cannot win? As long as I seek to fight it under my own power, yes it does and yes I am. Fortunately, God is in the business of making the impossible happen (Matthew 19:26).

In fact, His Word says a tremendous amount about tongue taming, which indicates its importance, and much of that instruction revolves around a few key points to help us obtain that goal. We’ll look at those instructions next time when we close out our detailed look at words.

DISCUSSION: How do you feel about the impossibility of ever taming your tongue?

Timing Matters

Timing 2Poor Timing

“Why doesn’t anyone listen to what I say?” My complaint probably sounded like a broken record to my husband. Frustration over someone failing to heed my advice resulted once again in stimulating this repeated source of relational frustration.

Then awareness hit me like a punch in the face. If multiple people from a variety of settings and types of relationships seem not to listen to me, perhaps the problem lies with me and not with others.

Some people (my husband) have a terrific sense of timing in conversations. Whether funny or serious, the flow seems as natural as breathing. Other people (myself), struggle finding the “right” words, which often (usually) come long after the conversation ends. And ill-timed humor only amplifies uncomfortable and awkward feelings.

For a while, past mistakes in conversations were just too painful to risk repeating. Additionally, extreme sensitivity created a constant awareness of every interruption, every misplaced comment and certainly every blank stare of confusion. So, to minimize these miscues in timing, I simply avoided face-to-face conversations.

As you might guess, avoiding talking to others is pretty impossible. Sure, I can do a lot of communicating via electronic methods, but they in no way substitute for the richness of connection made when talking to someone while at the same time experiencing the fullness of their presence.

Instead of allowing struggles with timing in conversations to suffocate relationships, either by lack of awareness or through over-sensitivity, a better approach involves taking time to increase understanding of timing in conversations. Perhaps in doing so, I can finally discover victory within this struggle.

Understanding Timing

Timing involves when something happens or is done (or said), especially when that timing is thought of as having a good or bad effect on the result. Timing also involves the ability to chose the best moment for some action, movement, words, etc.

Timing within conversations significantly impacts the success or failure of the contained communication. It also involves well-timed orchestration of the elements involved in successful communication.

Timing Awareness

As I thought about past failed communication, I realized that my poor timing had a huge impact. And that poor timing usually took place because one or more of the following were happening.

  1. Failing to fully listen because I’m thinking of what I want to say next.
  2. Getting distracted & being unable to hear what was being said.
  3. Talking before letting the other person finish talking.
  4. Focusing on giving advice rather than on understanding the person.
  5. Letting my emotions take over my flow of words.

Knowing that any one of these can knock the timing of a conversation off kilter, being aware of each conversation malady provides a first step for improving my timing when talking with others.

timingTiming Words

Poor timing with our words involves a myriad of factors. Poor social skills, loneliness and selfishness all impact a person’s timing when they talk to others. Being uninterested in others, having a lack of confidence and feeling intimidated can also impact how well we pace conversations.

Understanding that one or more factors may be at play in those to whom we are speaking helps in employing patience, but realizing theses issues may also exist within ourselves can help in making necessary adjustments for at least improving our end of the flow of communication.

Once awareness and understanding begin, we can then apply the following Biblical principles.

  1. Listen first and more. (Proverbs 18:13)
  2. Let relationships develop. (Proverbs 6:1-5)
  3. Use good sense. (Proverbs 11:12)
  4. Think first. (Proverbs 13:3 & 29:20)
  5. Use less words. (Proverbs 17:27-28)
  6. Be slow to speak. (James 1:19-20)

Notice that much of what Scripture reveals about timing involves not speaking but instead deliberately focusing on others in the conversation. Maybe this is because our words simply don’t matter when others don’t feel heard in a way that shows their value.

Focusing on understanding provides the key to proper timing in conversations. Sure, other people’s baggage impacts the conversation too, but your honing of timing certainly increases the probability of understanding and growth.

DISCUSSION: What impact has timing, or lack of it, had on your communication?

Check Your Source

sf_overflow_03As a newspaper writer years ago, the source meant everything. In fact, editors insisted on at least three solid sources per article. Why? Because the sources determined the validity and impact of the words written.

When I taught writing and speech classes years later, I also stressed the importance of solid sources for conveying and supporting ideas. In fact, we spent a great deal of time determining how to identify credible sources.

The fact remains that the credibility of our words play a large role in our overall reputation. That holds true for individuals as much as is does in the media.

Considering the source makes all the difference in how the words of a person, whether writing or speaking, are received, accepted, believed and followed.

Careless words ruin a person’s credibility, certainly for the short-term. But the longer they precede a person and mark their presence, the more long-term, negative impact careless words have on a person’s reputation.

All About the Supply

Careless words usually indicate carelessness in some area of a person’s inner life, often symptomatic of a much bigger problem. Our words and actions indicate the condition of the heart and, when careless or unloving, usually point to an unbalanced state in some aspect of the inner self. And the more a habit of careless words receives room to roam, the greater the storm’s rage and the more numerous the careless words.

The only way to calm this storm is addressing the root cause. This means considering the source, the supply, of what’s coming out of a person’s mouth.

Begin the process by asking some tough but necessary questions. Does your source of supply – your automatic way of dealing with life – come in the form of acting, moving, talking and pushing? Is this your “go to” pace for life? If it is, consider how Isaiah 30:15 may have a much needed solution for calming every aspect of life from our schedule to the words we speak by bringing us to a stable source or supply on a consistent basis.

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The flow of careless words decreases and may even stop altogether when we quit trying to make things happen, for example when we try to talk people into things or attempt to justify our choices. More time spent in rest and quietness, as Jesus made a point to do regularly (Mark 1:35), reduces the number of unnecessary words by focusing us on the only source that can tame the tongue.

Bob Sorge in Chapter 10 of The Fire of Delayed Answers breaks Isaiah 30:15 down this way:

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When we’re out of control and not letting God direct our lives, not setting Him as our source of supply for all of our words, thoughts, attitudes and actions (Psalm 19:14 & James 1:26), we lose the ability to glorify Him. Our lives simply appear chaotic, holding nothing beneficial for others to desire to pursue.

Often, the root cause of our careless lives, which often becomes first apparent in the words we speak, involves failing to heed Isaiah’s advice. The more we purpose to implement these elements into our lives and allow God to be the source of all that we are, the more we’ll realize the value of returning to God, in resting in the quietness of His presence and in having confidence for Him to renew us.

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DISCUSSION: How can you purposely apply the advice of Isaiah? How will doing so change the words you use?

This post is a part of a weekly book discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter of Living Between the Lines. Be sure to check out their posts!

Tone Matters

Currently, my biggest struggle with tone of voice manifests through my youngest son. While my oldest son and my husband tend to focus more on words said and to give less credence to tone and body language than most people, my youngest soaks in my tone and often emulates it and my body language when talking to others.

My youngest son replaying my tone and body language feels strange but has increased my awareness of the impact of my tone of voice. This has led me to realize how much tone of voice not only impacts relationships but how it reflects the atmosphere that exists in the inner self.tone 2

The style or manner in which words are said make up a person’s tone of voice. Tone involves the delivery of words by expressing emotions and opinions. Tone determines perception also, such as whether an individual appears weak, confident, boring, etc..

Research reveals the significant impact of tone of voice by showing that 90% of our communication comes through nonverbal cues, including tone of voice. That means that the actual words said have only a 10% impact on our communication.

Not only is tone a powerful element in communication, it also presents an effective gauge of a person’s inner atmosphere. When we’re tired, frustrated, overwhelmed or have some other powerful emotion flowing through us, our tone often reveals that inner state. In fact, concealing that emotion usually becomes impossible for most people. And the better someone knows you, the harder hiding emotions in our tone becomes.

Tone 1

When I hear my boys talking (bickering) with each other, I’ll often remind one or both to “Watch your tone.” I do this because I know that a change in tone often results in a change in attitude of all parties involved. In fact, let’s go so far as to say that the words said mean little to nothing when the tone says something else or something more powerful.

With the significant impact of tone of voice in the forefront of our thoughts, consider the following truths about how we say what we say and how their application can change our relationships as well as the atmosphere of the inner self.

  1. Gentle words can disarm anger, resentment and vengeance. (Proverbs 15:1)
  2. Gentle words have healing powers. (Proverbs 15:4)
  3. A mind set on things above comes through in our attitude, which is reflected in our tone of voice. (Colossians 3:1-10)
  4. Tone that reflects truth promotes healthy communication, but tone driven by emotions leads to communication breakdown.
  5. Tone often says more about the speaker than it does about the situation or the receiver.

Sarcasm comes naturally for me, but it only lessens as I refuse to give it a regular voice in the world. The journey to this particular victory lives as a constant reminder of the power of tone of voice. Because sarcasm failed to encourage and thus went against God’s intention for my relationships, I am motivated to keep a tight reign on not just the words I say but how I say them as well.

Painful lessons regarding my tone of voice led me to realize that how I say something certainly impacts others, but at the root it really reveals what’s going on in my heart. So when I use a wrong tone, I first correct it if possible and then apologize for it when necessary. I also seek to pinpoint what’s going on within myself that led to a tone that was not only less than encouraging but that was actually only my emotions out of control.

When I change my tone, my inner attitude changes, and my emotions level out. I can also see the same happening with whomever I am communicating with at the time. In that, I witness the truth that words truly can heal or destroy (Proverbs 12:18) largely through the tone in which they are said.

DISCUSSION: What impact has tone of voice had in your communication?

For more details on this topic, check out the posts Thinking on Words and Words Matter.

Words Matter

Pr 18 20

During my teens and twenties, I said whatever came to mind. And since depression reigned during those years, what I said often failed to benefit anyone. A habit of careless words indicated a much larger problem within the atmosphere of my inner self.

While raising a toddler, the impact of my words on myself and others suddenly jumped out in stark contrast to the person I wanted to be. The desire to change went well beyond what others thought of me – my reputation – and straight to the heart of the person I truly was – my character.

My character displeased God. Nothing else mattered. And if I failed to control my words, I knew the consequences would be significant. My careless words indicated a problem deep within, and the solution came first through conviction (Matthew 28:12:36-37), then through accepting grace (Romans 4:7-8), and then through obedience.

You see, confessing the problem and accepting forgiveness started the process. Following the path of obedience – conforming my likeness to His – needed to follow in order for my life to truly please my Heavenly Father.Pr 18 21

In this still-ongoing process, many lessons stand out regarding the significance of the words I say.

  1. Careless words reveal unchecked emotions.
  2. Careless words mean a lack of self-control over my influences.
  3. Careless words say more about the speaker than the receiver.
  4. Careless words indicate an out-of-balance inner atmosphere.
  5. The more I try to control situations and people, the more careless words I say.
  6. The more I talk, the less others (especially my kids) seem to listen.
  7. Admitting to careless words means admitting to a deeper problem, usually pride.
  8. Fear of being misunderstood often causes me to say too much.
  9. Lack of sleep and proper nourishment impact the ability to control my words.
  10. Writing slows thoughts down and causes careful consideration of my words.

Careless words now exist as an indicator that some aspect of my inner self needs aligned. And, the sooner I make the necessary adjustments, the less impact the consequences have on myself and others.

DISCUSSION: What might your careless words be trying to tell you?

Thinking on Words

A friend recently said she planned on “wafing” at work the next day. At first, her word left me floundering to understand her meaning. But when I thought more about my friend and her approach to work, I somehow knew what she meant. The relationship created the meaning necessary to understand her words.

My friend also said that putting the word in quotes made it okay to use even though it is not a word. If that’s the case, then a lot of words need quotation marks.

Our conversation got me thinking about how people in general use words, both intentionally and unintentionally, how we create the meaning of the words we use, both real and made up, as well as the impact of relationship on the meaning of our words.

So, strap in, hold on, and journey into my thought process on the topic of words.

Words

Did you realize“unforgiveness” isn’t really a word? Not in my dictionary, anyway. “Impactful” isn’t either. Kind of disappointed since I use those words often.

Technically, adding “un” before “forgiveness” means taking back or undoing forgiveness. A very “churchy” (yes, another non-word) word, the assumed meaning of “unforgiveness” involves not forgiving or refusing to forgive, not so much an undoing of forgiveness given because of it not actually being given in the first place.

Impactful,”used to portray major impact or effect, is actually in some “online” dictionaries, but it’s not an official word according to Dictionary.com. And anyway, why not just use influential or effective? Unfortunately, I’ve used “impactful” so much over the years that I naturally think of it when describing something with great impact.

How many other words do I use frequently that don’t actually exist?

Words4

People constantly make up words. Some eventually become official words. (I’m still not over “ain’t” officially becoming a word.) Don’t we have enough words? Are we just too lazy to learn the ones we already have, so we make up new ones instead? Isn’t that kind of like being unable to find that thing you know you have somewhere, so you buy a new one instead of taking the time and making the effort to look for it?

Marketers, Tweeters (technically a real word) and “Facebookers” make up words all the time. Where do you think the Word of the Year “selfie” came from? (In case you’re wondering, second place went to “twerking.” Sorry, Miley!)

Ginormous” and “bestie” were also spawned “online” with “selfie.” The word “ginormous” combines gigantic and enormous, related synonymously, so why not just use one of the legitimate words? Can something truly be so gigantic and enormous that it needs both words to be described? Once something reaches enormous, does it need to be more? Or, is this simply our human tendency to add dramatic flare to everything?

Maybe my obsessive need to eliminate the little squiggly line under words creates an over-sensitivity to word choice. Or maybe my frustration over increasing laziness with the words we speak, over taking the time to communicate clearly and accurately, creates a need to consider the details of the words I use and the intentions behind them.

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Take a minute to think about the words you use. Actually, think about how much you actually think about your words. Or, do you just let the words come forth without giving them much thought?

Scripture says a lot about using care with our words, and taking the time to consider these instructions strengthens character and relationships by bringing greater awareness to the fact that the words we speak – as well as how, when & why we speak them – reflect the atmosphere of the inner self with striking accuracy.

In January, we will look at how what we say, the way we say it and when we say it holds tremendous impact. In addition, we’ll look at how who says something matters along with the impact of the amount of words we speak (how much we say or don’t say). Finally, we’ll also look at the value of controlling our words along with ideas on how to incorporate this aspect of self control into the details of our lives.

DISCUSS: Take me on a journey into your thoughts on the use of words. Tell me what you think a detailed focus on this topic should include.

Heart Enlargement

enlarged heartWilderness times. Dry seasons. Physical affliction. Betrayal. Spiritual pride. Divine delays.

Struggles with flesh, struggles with temptation, affliction, tribulation and hassles. Tests from enemies and tests from friends. Some decisions — too many — made without consulting God.

While the details in my life’s story likely look very different than yours, they also probably hold many similarities.

Struggling toward maturity in Christ and a desperate dependence where prayer lives as a necessity, or as Bob Sorge calls it in The Fire of Delayed Answers, “a matter of sheer survival.”

Times of testing for purity. Times of delayed healing.

Times when these sobering truths, stated so succinctly by Sorge, knock the breath out of me:

“It is possible to remain loyal in our love for the Lord
but still miss His highest purpose for our life.”

“We can love the Lord sincerely but fall short of His highest purposes
by not consulting with Him in our decision making.”

“It’s possible to be sincere, have good intentions, with a heart to please God,
and be disqualified from God’s best for our lives.”

Realizing that even in my loyalty, I missed God’s highest purpose. Even in my sincerity, I fell short by failing to consult Him. Even with a desire to please Him, I lost achievement of His best.

Painful truths, to be sure, but necessary lessons in order for maturity and desperate dependence to grow. Agonizing delays waiting for stewardship ability. And embarrassing failure in the process of learning complete reliance.

“Enlarged” does not fully describe my heart, but “being enlarged” does. At times, the reality of an enlarged heart peeks through, but it quickly slips away as my focus goes to the cares of the world, to the struggle instead of to the victory.

Sorge says that an “enlarged heart”:

  • Is a heart expanded by God to carry the concerns of others.
  • Has a passion for reaching beyond the concerns and issues that affect our own personal life to embrace the needs of others.
  • Has a heart for the world.
  • Is a heart beating with the passions and concerns of God Himself.
  • Is given greater capacity to channel God’s love to others.
  • Finds its interests much broader than the confines of its own ministry involvement.
  • Freely delights in seeing blessings of God abound elsewhere.
  • Is free of jealousy, competition, and comparison.

Knowing the goal helps. Understanding what an enlarged heart looks like shows me the path God is creating in the wilderness and the refreshing streams He’s creating in the dessert (Isaiah 43:18-19).

As God continues enlarging my heart through trauma, crisis, troubles and even calls for radical obedience, the truth that this work comes from Him and through no effort on my part becomes increasingly real. The value of perseverance, patience and love in the midst of this pressure draws me closer to Him, pulling me to a new spiritual plane where weeping and tears along with tastes of divine pleasure flow from an enlarged heart that is also still being enlarged.

DISCUSSION: How is your heart both enlarged and being enlarged?

A Detailed Life

Ever had your car professionally detailed? I have not, technically, but it was done to the “new” cars I have purchased. The pre-owned vehicles once moved and breathed in other lives but transferred into my life with the previous owners detailed out.

Neither have I detailed a vehicle myself. Why? Because it’s tedious work. Detailing involves getting into cracks and crevices and digging out accumulated grime. It’s taking out the floor mats and vacuuming. It’s reaching way under seats and getting all the crumbs and forgotten pencils, papers and water bottles. Sometimes, it results in “that’s where that is” or “I forgot all about that” or “Eeewww!”

Detailing sort of hits a reset button. It reorganizes and renews. Changing outside appearances in most areas of life really isn’t all that difficult, but making lasting change where our inner life matches our outer life, where the details of life balance with one another, can be a real struggle. Detailing our inner lives means digging into the cracks and crevices and reaching way underneath the surface to hidden places to find the forgotten, lost and unsavory.

2014 Word 365 – Details

Details 4Detailing my life, which I consider focusing in on the details as much as the Holy Spirit leads, in 2014 will lead me to do everything I do “simply, slowly and clearly,” in essence, to get into the cracks and crevices in a way that allows for hitting the reset button in some areas and discovering new direction in others. Specifically, focusing on the details of life will help me…

  • Simplify. My natural tendency involves complicating everything. If I don’t deliberately think of keeping the details of my life simple, I get overwhelmed easily. Focusing on the details will better establish a habit of simplicity.
  • Slow down. When I read, I move quickly to reach the end in order to move on to another book. But I miss out on the processing and applying. When I write, I also do so quickly and fail to carefully consider every word. Listening, too, often involves forming responses instead of truly hearing. Slowing down will amplify the quality of the time I spend in my favorite activities and with the people I love most.
  • Clarify.  Focusing on the details will also help clarify my focus. If I can find ways to stay clear in my focus (God’s will for the details of my life), I believe my life will be simpler. I also believe I will be more productive the clearer I can get and keep my focus.

Focus Determines Reality

In Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, Qui Gon Jinn tells Anakin, “Your focus determines your reality.” Unfortunately, Anakin’s focus continually drifted toward fear, resulting in him choosing the path of darkness.

As I choose to focus on the details of life in 2014, I too realize that my focus will determine my reality. If I fail to detail certain areas in my life, I may continue down a hurried and complicated path. I may continue to find myself increasingly confused and less productive. But if I guard my focus, I can walk the path of an amplified life that produces and inspires depth of character.

Details 5So once again, as I refocus on the two verses in Isaiah given as a focus for my life almost four years ago, I realize the necessity of creating a detailed life, one that exists in immediate and thorough obedience.

DISCUSSION: How’s your focus?

Want help with your goal setting?
Check out the terrific resources offered in
New Year’s Bible Study” at Beyond the Sinner’s Prayer.