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.

Taming 1

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?

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17 Replies to “Tongue Taming”

  1. I love this topic. It's my current issue and has been for years. What I have recently learned is that I have to stop trying to tame my tongue. It's impossible and keeps the Holy Spirit from doing it in me. Instead I have to believe that because Jesus had that control, so do I. I have to quit worrying about it. I just rest in His control. Of course, I will feel promptings and I will obey them. I will do things that aren't indicative of self-control. But I can't allow that to change my belief that I have control over my tongue through Christ. If I think of it just like salvation, I get it. A sin doesn't make me think I am not saved. But a sinful word makes me think I have no control over the tongue. I won't go there anymore.
    My recent post Review of Hoffman Academy’s Piano Lessons for Kids

    1. Me too, Melanie. I'm certain we're not alone in this struggle either. Based on scripture, I think it's a pretty universal problem. No, on our own, we cannot tame the tongue. But in partnership with the Holy Spirit, it's absolutely possible. As we listen to the Holy Spirit's promptings, as we are obedient to them, it's amazing how our ability for self control increases too. We'll mess up, sure, but as you said, we can't let us think that the inevitable mess up is more powerful that the Spirit of our Holy God!

  2. Wise words here!

    For me, when I get so consumed with God and His Kingdom little things in this life just roll right off and don't invoke the response they normally would have if I were more in tune with myself.

    Sometimes the closer I get to God the less I am able to be concerned with things in this world that bother other people. Petty things just don't matter.

    1. Being consumed with God definitely changes our focus and perspective on ourselves and the world. A God-focus is the only way I've found to experience true and lasting change within myself.

  3. I want everything in my life to be about Jesus. When He is my focus my thoughts, words, and actions are different. My prayer everyday is – less of me and more of Him. So, I agree with Mel and with you, Kari, when I am focused on me (self-control), I fail . . . every time. Praise God, He is always faithful to forgive me and turn me around.

  4. love your illustration Kari. yes, our tongue is like a roaring lion and it can destroy quickly. I am so glad that in Christ I can do more than I ever imagined, and that includes learning to discipline my tongue, along with my mind and heart. God is so awesome! I am a work in progress. Thankfully God is patient and forgiving.

  5. It’s interesting how words can be used to destroy not others, but your own self.
    One word that I need to tame is “hate.” When I say that I hate my job, or bad drivers, or long lines, I find that word becomes self fulfilling. So, I’m working on not using in my mouth, but more important,banishing it from my heart.
    My recent post I have no right to happiness

    1. Great point, David. We think what we say hurts others, and maybe it does, but it really destroys our character. Not only that, but it reveals our heart, which is really the deeper issue. I like your approach, that of taking one word and focusing on correcting that. I suspect doing so will cause other words you want to eliminate to fall away too, but it for sure gets at the idea of small steps adding up to make a big difference. Awareness is a huge key in this, and by committing to banish the word "hate" from your lips, you're making your inner self aware of the need to banish it from your heart. Thank you for sharing this example.

  6. Yes and Amen! The our inward life's really determines our outward actions and attitude. Being close to God and having Him on our mind will allow us to be tame, in all areas of our life. Great post.

    ps. I loved the lion pictures.

    1. Inward reality creates outward reality for sure. A focus on Jesus is the only way to have true success in either place and for both to honestly match for that matter. Thanks, Dan!

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