Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #13 Tongue Tied

October 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs | Liz Curtis Higgs

A few times (very few), I wish I’d spoken up instead of holding back. But many times (way too many), I wish I’d held my tongue. At home. At work. On a plane. In a restaurant. At church. At a friend’s house…well, pretty much everywhere.

What happens next is seldom good. Words spoken can’t be unspoken.

We may explain, apologize, grovel, beg to be forgiven. But we can’t undo the damage we’ve already done.

Is this a challenge for you, beloved? Right there with you. Keep reading for a word of encouragement.

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
   but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

"Those who guard their lips..." Proverbs 13:3

Those who guard their lips… Proverbs 13:3

World War II posters reminded Americans, “Loose lips sink ships.” Now we read on Twitter, “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets.” Either way, it’s wise counsel.

“People who are careful about what they say” (ERV) not only protect themselves; they also guard the safety and well-being of others.

In the book of Proverbs more than a hundred verses teach us about the power of our words to wound or to heal: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords [ouch], but the tongue of the wise brings healing [ahhh]” (Proverbs 12:18).

Planting this truth in my head and heart isn’t enough. I need to educate my mouth as well: “Self-control means controlling the tongue!” (TLB). Right.

Short of taping our lips shut, what can we do?
Here are two exercises that seem to be working.

Stop, look, listen, pray. I not only respond too quickly; sometimes I speak while the other person is still talking. Good grief. My current solution? Stop thinking about how I might answer. Look at their eyes, their expression, their body language. Really listen to what they’re saying. Pray before I offer a response.

When in doubt, say nothing. If you “keep what you know to yourself” (CEV), you’ll stop gossip in its tracks, remain a trustworthy friend, and save yourself and others a ton of trouble. Sometimes I have to literally press my lips together—hard—as I pray for the Lord to rescue me from possible disaster.

"...preserve their lives,..." Proverbs 13:3

…preserve their lives,… Proverbs 13:3

This is God’s saving power at work. Because of His mercy and loving-kindness, the Holy Spirit helps us before we end up in deep water and drag others down with us.

Calling on Him first to zip our lips is far more effective than crying out to Him after we’re drowning in a sea of ill-spoken words.

Our verse from Proverbs promises that, if you control your mouth, “you will be safe” (CEV). Whether you picture a life preserver tossed in your direction or a safety net stretched below you or a fire escape outside your window, guarding your speech insures you will “take another breath” (VOICE) and “have a long life” (NLT).

Such a good plan.

"...but..." Proverbs 13:3

…but… Proverbs 13:3

You’d think the assurance of safety would be enough to keep believers in line. But for some of us, “Careful words make for a careful life” (MSG) doesn’t sound very appealing.

The truth? We like a touch of adventure, a hint of danger, an element of risk. “Careful” sounds…well, boring. Timid. Too safe.

Butwe think.
What ifwe wonder.
Why not…we decide.

Instead of holding back our thoughts, words, or opinions, we let ’em rip.

"...those who speak rashly..." Proverbs 13:3

…those who speak rashly… Proverbs 13:3

There she blows. The Hebrew word pasaq literally means “open wide.”

This photo doesn’t look like freedom of speech to me. More like a woman out of control. A “big mouth” (GW). A “careless talker” (GNT). The kind of person who “speaks without thinking” (NIRV) and “talks too much” (ISV).

Those who “open their lips” (CEB) often have a hard time closing them. With “no guard on his speech” (DRA), a person is likely to say anything.

When we’re frustrated, we blurt out words we wouldn’t normally say. And when we’re angry, we shout out words we wouldn’t even allow ourselves to think if we were feeling calm and rational.

Then what happens to us and the people we care about?

"...will come to ruin." Proverbs 13:3

…will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

Families destroyed. Jobs lost. Marriages ended. Bank accounts emptied. Relationships severed.

This isn’t my inner Drama Queen talking: the Hebrew word mechittah means “terror.” The words we speak can do serious damage.

Bet you can think of a time when a sharp rebuke, a blast of vitriol became a weapon of mass “destruction” (ASV) in a household, in a friendship, in a workplace.

It’s a horrible feeling when such things happen. The minute the words explode from our mouths, we realize we’re “done for” (CEV).

Think train wreck: “calamity” (JUB), “evil” (WYC), “ruin” (LEB). This isn’t a calculated attack, meant to inflict injury. It’s a thoughtless remark, “a quick retort” (TLB), nothing more than “careless talk,” (MSG), yet it may well “ruin everything” (NLT).

Okay, now I’m nervous. Maybe we shouldn’t speak, ever. Avoid potential problems. Keep our mouths shut.

But that’s not God’s will for us. He wants us to speak.

Paul confessed, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The Lord urges you and I as well to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16), and to “speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Speaking isn’t the problem: it’s controlling our wild and willful tongue. That’s where we need the Holy Spirit’s help.

Heavenly Father, when we open our lips, help us chose our words with care. Temper them with Your love. Fill them with Your grace. Remind us that wrong words lead to disaster, but right words offer everlasting life.

Proverbs 13:3 on Pinterest

Now it’s your turn

  • If you’ve found a way to control your tongue, I’d love to hear it.

Take a moment to Post your Comment below. I have lots to learn on this one. I’m thinking others might too. Thanks for sharing!

Your grateful sister, Liz
@LizCurtisHiggs #50Proverbs

P.S. Your Printable of Proverbs 13:3 awaits you, as well as colorful pins to share on Pinterest. Also on Pinterest this month? Some of my favorite photos and quotes about this splendid season. Happy October!

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43 Responses to Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #13 Tongue Tied

  1. Linda@Creekside October 8, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Hi Liz … I’m a recent reader, although I’ve heard of you in Christian ‘circles’ for years! Thanks for the wealth of wisdom that you share here. As a woman in ministry myself, {known as an encourager, too!}, I appreciate you going deep. God knows we need the feeding that comes from sitting with His Word.

    I’ve found few blogs by other women in ministry of a certain age {ahem!}. I look forward to connecting with you more in the days ahead.

    Blessings, sister.

  2. pamr6 October 8, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Boy, do I have this problem with mouthyness. My mother told me it was gift of the Spirit; that I was His tool to be used as a catalyst. Humm. I have done this inadvertently, the reaction of people always shocks me when my intent is not there. However, the sin comes in when I do have intent and I feel evil delight when I’ve scored a hit. I can tell; I feel my pride swell. However I am who I am. I feel hot, righteous indignation when wrongs are done and I feel duty bound to right that wrong or at least call attention to it. I am trying to calm that down all I can but sometimes the right/wrong buttons are pushed and I am just like that wonderful picture of the lady going off. That made me laugh because I can identify with her frustration. You get to a point and you blow. Everybody does it; even Jesus cleaned up the Temple of the moneylenders. It’s the humanity in us. I will never have patience like the Bible says I should. I was born with a short fuse. All I can do is pray and try to do better I guess. But some things just need to be said, ya know?

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

      Oh yes, I do know. I have the spiritual gift of correction as well. (Girlfriends, you won’t find that listed in 1 Corinthians 12!) As I beg God to recreate me in His image, I’m finding I don’t blow up nearly so often. We’re all a work in progress. What a relief, eh?

  3. Brandi Luiz October 8, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I need super help in this area. I need to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and even slower to become angry.
    Liz, I need to read this and pray it every day, maybe every hour!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

      Go for it, Brandi. Stop. Look. Listen. Pray. We can do this!

  4. jaime October 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    When i was younger i would literally bite my tongue. To the point it bled. Prayer is much more effective and less painful.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      Ouch! I’ve done that by accident, and it IS very painful. So yes, prayer is a much better plan, Jaime!

  5. Bonnie October 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    I too have open mouth insert foot itis!! I try to remember ” if ya don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”. I am getting better @ work – asking myself ” do I need to know this for my job”? Always a work in progress!! Thanks Liz for all you do & making it real for so many of us. You truly touch my heart.. Gob Bless You❤️.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Great question to ask ourselves, Bonnie: “Do I need to know this?” Well done!

      • Nancy November 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

        And I would add to that, “Does the person I’m speaking to need to hear what I’m about to say?” Usually, no. Sometimes it feels like it is justified to come back with a clever response, but I really need to work on keeping my mouth SHUT. What is that saying about a fool should keep his mouth shut rather than open it and prove the fact …. Thanks for your encouragement, Liz, to keep going on the right paths through life. I love your Proverbs series!

  6. Mary K. Ness October 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I now make it a concious effort to ask myself, “Will this encourage or discourage this person I’m talking to?” Also, another one I use is, “Is this a nice thing to say?” and my third one , could I change some words in this phrase to make it sound nicer? It’s amazing how you can change a few words and still mean the same thing in a much nicer tone. I love listening to these proverbs. Thanks, Sis

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

      You’re a smart woman, Mary! Especially with emails and texts, I’m trying to “hear” what they will sound like to the recipient. Today I almost hit send on one that said, “This time is wrong and must be corrected.” True, but kinda blunt. So I changed it to, “This time needs to be amended.” It accomplished the same thing, but was (I hope) a tad more gentle.

  7. Michele Morin October 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    It seems like a pat answer, but I have found that Scripture memorization is helpful with controlling my tongue. Maybe it’s just the replacement of my words with God’s; maybe it’s the cleansing power of God’s Word; maybe I’m just getting older and God is more gracious to gray-haired big mouths! Whatever the reason, I’m thankful, but always aware that I have a long way to go.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

      Nothing pat about that answer, Michele! I’ve been trying to memorize our Proverbs this year for all those wise reasons you mentioned. It’s harder than I’d expected, but even if I commit just 10 or 15 to memory, it’s better than 0, right?

  8. patti iverson October 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    Oh just wow. I need to read God’s Word on my dumb tongue who seems to think it is my familiy’s very own personal holy spirit–small caps, notice… I must learn to let HIM be the HS in their lives, not me. Especially on FB==so easy to pop off with a platitude with attitude. I’m just gonna stop it. Or die tryin’… This is all so easy to spout off as I sit here on vaca in Hawaii, sittin’ ‘n sippin’ coffee on my lanai overlooking the lava, golf course and ocean–the peace is astounding. I haven’t turned on FB yet or encountered any “herky jerky” peeps who need my words of wisdom—arrrrrrgh But today I–ME–MYSELF will be the different one, and it’s MY heart the HS will be helping–not them! Love you Lizzie.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      Your vacation sounds lovely, Patti. And a vacation from FB isn’t a bad idea either! The Holy Spirit can definitely handle things. :>) Early in my Christian walk, someone said to me in a loving but firm voice, “I didn’t realize the Holy Spirit died and left you in charge, Liz.” Eeeeek! I’ve never forgotten it.

  9. Laurie in WI October 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Dear Liz,
    Your Proverbs study has been both encouraging and convicting–I thank God for you and your love of Jesus. This lesson fit with what the Lord has been teaching me lately. In the past, I embraced my courage and independence to speak up and battle injustice. I looked constantly for “teachable” moments so I could impart some of my knowledge, wisdom, or wit. I would feel irritated with people who would not speak up, who would not give an opinion, or be willing to debate an issue. But my “generosity of words” has hurt me, my relationships and my witness. Lack of self-control in my emotions, my thoughts, and my words get the best of me. One of my favorite verses has been Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I always felt vindicated that I was following the requirements of the Lord to seek justice and mercy. But recently I alienated one of my adult children by giving unwanted, un-asked for advice when she was going through a tough, tough time. And then I felt angry that she did not see the wisdom in my comments, because of course, I gave them out of love and concern–right? Wrong… it was not my place, not my responsibility to try and teach her, even if I thought it would prevent her some suffering. Who am I to think my words should be heeded? Who am I to think that the suffering of another could be circumvented by me? God’s plan for my adult child is far better than any plan I could think up. And the very suffering she was experiencing would be used for good in her life by our Great God. An Oswald Chambers quote fits nicely here, “no saint should ever dare to interfere with the lesson of suffering being taught in another saint’s life.” Anyway, all of a sudden Micah 6:8 took on new meaning, because I realized that my need to talk (more than listen), to advise (when not invited to), or to speak up without praying first were all clear signs that I was NOT “walking humbly with my God”. So what am I doing to “bite my tongue”? I found I needed to admit my sin and repent, search the Word for verses (like the ones you gave us!) and to practice, practice, practice not giving advice without being asked. I am so glad you have given me more weapons with the Stop, Look, Listen, Pray.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

      Laurie, I so appreciate everything you’ve shared here. I have two grown children, so I totally get that urge to teach, instruct, offer counsel…oh, yes. So there. The truth is, they’re doing great on their own with God, and will do even better if I keep stepping back. And back. And back. Love the Oswald Chamber quote: TRUTH. And I have Micah 6:8 framed. :>)

  10. Christina Anderson October 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    As a person with a “smart mouth” and a ready tongue, I have gotten myself into lots of trouble over the years. Fortunately, wisdom has come with age. I’m sixty-six. I have told my daughter, “Remember whatever you say can’t be unsaid.” If I’d only followed this advice my life might have been much easier. The expression, “too soon old and too late smart” definitely applies. I thank God daily for His wondrous gift of grace.

  11. Bonnie Roof October 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    What a wonderful post, Liz, on a issue I feel everyone has had a problem with – at one time or another, myself included!! Which is surprising as I was so bashful as a young girl, I held my head down – hesitant to speak to anyone. However, allowing God control of my life has given me confidence and more boldness in speech, as well as a desire to use my experiences to help draw others closer to God.

    Our eagerness to help others can, as you said, become disastrous when we speak without forethought and prayer. I will certainly give more thought and prayer to the words that come out of my mouth, now. Thank you for your help and transparency – thank you also for EVERYTHING you do for your “sisters”!! I continue to pray for you, your ministry, and your health!! Love you, Liz!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

      Your prayers are greatly appreciated, dear Bonnie. It IS good to know we’re not alone in our stumblings, yet all working toward the same end: glorifying the Name of the Lord!

  12. Glenda Zylinski October 8, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    What a timely word, Liz! A real confirmation in times of temptation to return biting words for vitriol. Two things come to mind when I want to lash out irrationally: 1) Is it loving?
    2) Is it life-giving? Warm thanks for your ministry of encouragement.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

      Those are wonderful questions to ask ourselves, Glenda…about EVERYTHING we say and do. Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Marsha Numerich October 8, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    God has given me the gift of encouragement. With every gift the pendulum swings from not doing enough to going too far. Until recently I have tended to go too far, and fight the battle for the underdog. I have recently come to realize as I did this I got in God’s way to intervene and have His will enter into the situation. I would carry frustration that was not mine to carry and the underdog missed out on God’s blessings.
    Standing firm on His Word and digging deep to study others in Scripture who did likewise. I think my greatest lessons came in studying the Servants of the Bible last year. Many tried to rush in and protect David from Saul, while David waited upon the Lord to know the next action he was intended to take (in regards to reacting to Saul). God told him to have Courage, Do not be afraid, but the biggest thing for me was that He told him “The Battle is Mine.”
    Wake up – I did – The battle is His, not mine to fight or speak upon for others. Step back and watch what He plans, as it plays out. The answer will come in His timing (which is perfect) and in His way (which is a blessing).

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

      How grand, to benefit from what you’ve learned during your time in God’s Word, Marsha. You are exactly right: His timing is perfect, and His way is a blessing.

  14. Kathy October 8, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Oh my! Sometimes I just wonder at some of my responses! The Lord is teaching me to be a better listener and therefore I don’t talk too soon, IF I remember to stop and LISTEN. I want to be a listener not a talker but I need help. Help me Lord!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

      Standing with you, Kathy! As a funny reality, whenever I try to just listen, people inevitably look at me with concern on their faces. “Liz, are you okay? You’re awfully quiet today…”

  15. Julie Sunne October 8, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    Oh to be better at the “Stop, look, listen, pray” strategy!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Got it, Julie! :>) Thanks for encouraging others to join us here on Twitter!

  16. Susan October 9, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    Excellent!! I pray for wisdom to know when to talk or just remain silent. Gossiping is such a awful habit, so it’s better to think before we talk. We cannot take back once its said. Saying you’re sorry is good, but the words are out. @Julie I agree.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      Agreed, Susan. It’s really better to think before we do anything!

  17. Linda H October 9, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    “Stop, Look, Listen, Pray”, as others have shared, are four words easy to remember when everything in you wants to blurt out what shouldn’t be said. This is an area I need so much work on. I also need to work on letting those unkind words go in my thoughts as sometimes I don’t say them aloud but keep repeating them silently. Thank you Liz for sending these words of truth our way.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

      Oh, man. I’m guessing many of us can identify with words that we silently keep repeating. I look forward to the day I don’t even THINK of them. But in the meantime, silence is golden!

  18. Blanche Hake October 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    As a public school educator, I used the concept many times to defuse situations which could have become volatile. Gossip is so damaging to all ages. We need to send this verse to our politicians today so that compromise can occur in Washington instead of such divisiveness. Our writer kept his ear tuned to God and not man. This verse is truly a valuable lesson to be learned. May God help me to stay tuned in.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      So right, Blanche. Solomon’s wisdom came from on high. The whole world would benefit from not only reading but also following God’s Proverbs.

  19. Kathryn H. October 10, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    Hi Liz,
    My mother always told me to “keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.”
    How I wish she would have heeded her own advice. I remember many times she said things to me that were hurtful to me personally and also about people who were close to me. She’s gone now, but I wish I could forget those harsh comments and just remember all the good things she was as my mother.
    Needless to say, I try and follow her advice every day.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      You’ve described the destructive power of words perfectly, Kathryn. They linger in our hearts and minds, coloring our memories and shaping our thoughts. As a mother, I tremble to think of what words I might have spoken that still echo in my grown children’s hearts. Please, Lord, show me so I may ask their forgiveness!

  20. Susan Gruener October 10, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    I learned a lot from this Liz. I loved the verses about how God wants us to ‘speak’. I love to laugh as I learn – such is your gift to us! 🙂 And no, I haven’t learned to control my tongue as much as I would like too…even after 40 years of marriage…. Your example was the best yet! I have as of late to think before I talk, and praying is the absolute best! But if all fails I keep my lips zipped! I tried it and it worked! 😉
    Love you much!

  21. Della Gorrell October 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    I know what words can do, and because of them, for so many years thought hell was a good place for me.. I never heard to many “good words” about me growing up… I love you was never heard as far as I can remember.. was not wanted by my parents and the story goes on and on.. now I too have the same problem, but I never tell anyone they are pretty much worthless… God took this worthless mess and made me feel more loved then ever. I made a big mistake writing to the orphans home I was in for my “papers” and found they also thought I was just down right mean… but because of most of that I learned to try not to say hurting things although sometimes I do… So I ask God to put His arms around me, and His Hands over my mouth.. I have to ask for help EVERY DAY. Thanks Liz, but how I wish I could sit with just YOU for a spell… I know that can not be but still I can wish…

  22. Shannon @ Distracted by Prayer October 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    God has been working with me on the area of negative words- not specifically mean ones, but words that don’t help the situation. After praying over this problem for quite a while, He led me to 2 Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast to the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

    I was focusing on what NOT to say, but God redirected me to what I should be aiming for: a pattern of sound words. If, at the end of my life, I can leave a legacy of uplifting, encouraging, enlightening speech, I can consider myself rich!

  23. Wanda Casson October 20, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    I first heard you tonight on Focus on the Family. This is the first time I heard you. Then I looked you up on the website. I think you are funny. I was at work laughing at your program on the radio. It was funny.

    I have found that by reading scriptures you can learn to stop the mouth. When a situation comes up, find a bible verse to reply instead of saying something. (Then what really happens is that you cannot find it and you forget what it was you were looking for.) I carry a Bible with me and my handy computer where I can use it to look up responses. I then forget what I am looking up.