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To Shut or Not to Shut?

October 14, 2011

I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law (who blogs over at “Confessions of a (Not-So) Domesticated Newlywed”) about “nagging” our husbands. Actually, we were discussing how difficult it is for wives (well, most of us, anyway) not to hold grudges with our husbands, not to remind them of past mistakes, and not to keep record of wrongs.

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I was honest with my SIL and said that I try NOT to do these things, but even after 12 years of making mistakes, hurting my husband with my words, and learning how to communicate better, I still have the tendency to fight back with my tongue. (By the way, my sweet SIL did most of the listening while I did the venting!)

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There are nearly 100 verses in the Bible about the tongue, a small but deadly part of the body. James probably says it best:

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“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:5-12, NIV)

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Ouch. If that wasn’t blunt enough for you, consider Proverbs 27:15-16: “A nagging spouse is like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; You can’t turn it off, and you can’t get away from it” (MSG).

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Double ouch. I definitely do not want to be the drip, drip, drip in my husband’s life. Even though I had momentarily forgotten about these lessons while I “vented” to a listening ear, I have somewhat learned a few lessons over years of marriage about taming my tongue when it comes to my spouse.

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1. Take a deep breath.
My husband and I rarely have arguments; we like to call them “discussions.” However, whenever they have turned into arguments, it is because I have set the situation on fire with a spark from my tongue. When my husband is speaking, and I feel my emotions rising and I know I am about to ignite a string of hateful words … I take a deep breath. Why? Because that split second gives me enough time to think before I speak. Let me get even more specific: I take a deep breath with my mouth SHUT. Yes, through my nose, I inhale a loooooong breath of air. This gives me enough time to think. It wouldn’t be good enough to say “think before you speak.” We all know that’s true, but doing it is another story. Taking a breath helps me to remember and do exactly that.

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2. Ask myself what my purpose is.
Girls, I gotta say, this is a toughie. I am a first-born personality woman who has learned to roll with the punches, to become much more laid back, and to go with the flow (thanks to the Holy Spirit, I must say). However … I can become very Type-A and spit fire when I feel defensive, argumentative, and want to be right. So as I’m sucking in air with my mouth closed (see above), I ask myself “Am I going to say what I am about to say because I care more about being RIGHT or because I care more about my husband and being a loving wife to him?” And honestly, sometimes I know what I should do, but I still choose to be “right,” no matter the cost. Sometimes I choose to die on the limb that is meaningless to anything in life, but I want to be right … I want to have the last word … I want my position, my feelings, my thoughts to be known.

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3. Think about how to say the words.
If I know I am going to say my next few sentences in a sarcastic, mean, demeaning, insulting, unloving, disrespect, angry way, then guess what? I probably don’t need to say them! Or I need to learn to say them in a nicer way. What I say may not be as important as how I say it. I may have a very valid point that my patient, good listening husband would lend an ear to—if I said it in a kind, loving, calm way.

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4. Think about whether or not I am accomplishing God’s will for our marriage or our family.
This is similar to #2. Am what I about to say accomplishing God’s will for my life, my husband’s life, our marriage life, or our family life? If not, then does it truly need to be said? Will my words uplift others in a godly way or will they only seek to destroy relationships? Will they benefit others or will they only be said for the sake of grumbling and arguing?

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5. Think ahead.
Again, in that split second of taking a deep breath (or two or three), think about how this discussion or argument or exchange of words will end. Will it end peacefully? Will there be reconciliation and/or forgiveness? Will it be extended overnight and into the next day? Will it cause a wedge in your relationship that will lead to worse things? Will it cause Satan to get a foothold where otherwise he could not? I like to think ahead to how I want this situation to end. Then I can keep my big mouth shut in order to accomplish it.

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• • • • • • •

Wives, the question is: To shut or not to shut? Our mouths, that is! Whether you are a glowing newlywed like my SIL or have many years of marriage under your belt, this may be an area where most women struggle. If you don’t believe it, go to an online Bible search engine and type in “tongue” in the search box. Read all the precautions and instructions God gives us about our tongues.

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Please share other tips of encouragement
for wives concerning this area of our lives.

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