Called to Quiet – Learning to Control the Untamed Tongue
Do you talk too much??? You are not alone. Most people don’t even notice it. It is so common now that it is practically mainstream and even seen as a positive thing in many instances. It has taken me years to recognize it’s negative impact on my own life.
I am a talker.
I got it from my dad…who got it from his mother…. who I’m sure got it from somewhere equally unavoidable.
I am a mother, a teacher, a language fanatic, and an avid reader with a vocabulary too big for my status in life. Even in my quiet time, I am writing! Sometimes I just don’t know how to stop!
I talk to process ideas. I talk to fix problems. I talk to avoid problems. I talk to fill silence. I talk to make people feel comfortable and to make them feel uncomfortable. I talk to inspire people and to make them reflect. Sometimes when I talk I can be spiteful and intentionally make people very angry. My words can make people feel loved but equally often, and sometimes even more so, they make others feel that their opinion is unvalued, or that they are interrupted and unappreciated….this last one of course is never my intention but somehow I just can’t make myself STOP!
A danger of the untamed tongue: tendency to gossip
Under the pretense of caring about others, until very recently, I have found myself caught up so many times in meaningless speculation about other people’s lives and intentions, wishes, and desires. I have found myself seeking people who shared that same desire to discuss and speculate about everyone else too and told myself I was unloved and unvalued if people didn’t want to confide their gossip to me. (I never thought of it as gossip, but what else could it be?) I always thought this was loving and caring, but something has changed in my heart recently…. Because I have been guilty of this in the past, Now, deep down I feel that probably many others are doing this about my life as well.
Do you have a tendency to be self-conscious?
Someone once told me that if we are worried about something happening to us, it is probably because we are doing that same thing (consciously or unconsciously) to others. That was a serious “light-bulb” moment for me. How guilty am I of doing what I am worried about being done to me?
My tendency to talk and worry about other people’s lives and decisions has led me to be hyper-conscious and overly concerned with what other people think about my life and my decisions. It has made decision making next to impossible for me in my life because it feels like too much pressure. It has made me feel that I need to have rational and indisputable reasons for everything I do, think, and believe. It has made me paranoid about apologizing to everyone about everything I think, say, and do to a point where my husband and my closest friends tell me it’s absurd and even downright annoying. Not to mention, the constant apologizing, especially when there is absolutely no true reason to apologize, has weakened the value of my apologies when there is truly something I need to apologize for.
But what if talking is just a part of who I am?
Isn’t this just part of who I am? How could I change? Why should I? Isn’t this good? Why doesn’t everyone else communicate like me? Isn’t it good to always have my heart on my sleeve and always talk about everything on my mind? Isn’t it healthy to vent about everything and everyone? Isn’t it caring to be concerned with how and what others are doing?
I always thought that the answers to all of the above were definitely and obviously YES…. but, now I am beginning to wonder.
Other problems with speaking
- It doesn’t allow you to listen.
When you talk too much it makes other people feel that you don’t care what they have to say or that you are unwilling to listen. (Even if that “isn’t true”).
- It doesn’t actually solve problems.
When I speak to vent or process, it can be cathartic at first but, in the end, what have I accomplished? The problem still exists and now it is burdening someone else too! Sometimes, it does help to process ideas out loud but be careful to be sure to process only with the right people in the right circumstances. (ie. ask their permission, make sure they know you are “processing” and not preaching, etc)
- You look pompous when you talk too much.
You look like a know-it-all and a buffoon. You become someone whom others see as all words and no action. Instead of raising yourself in their esteem, you tend towards digging yourself into holes nearly impossible to climb back out of.
- It doesn’t get you praise or pity…
Sometimes we talk to make what we are doing or going through public in order to get praise or pity.
But, I would like to ask. How’s that working out for you??? Let me know if you have discovered the perfect technique because I know it doesn’t seem to work for me (no matter how long I’ve been doing it!)
- It doesn’t make goals or deadlines any easier to meet.
Often I figure that if someone else knows about it, it might motivate me to “make it happen” more so than if only I had knowledge of my plans or goals. But, Jesus says –
Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… (Matthew 6:3)
Besides, does this ever work? Pretty much, never! (not for me at least) I can’t remember a single instance in which promising to make something happen has ever come true. However, I know that I accomplish much more when I just put my head down and do it, rather than proclaiming it from the housetops.
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What should I do instead of speaking?
You can talk to God about everything! He is interested in everything! Especially if it is something meaningful to YOU! Because He LOVES you! YOU MATTER to Him. Your worries matter to Him. What hurts or concerns you MATTERS to Him!!!
This is where you should process. This is where you should vent and ask questions. This is where you can say anything you want, however you want, without ANY negative consequences or having to worry about bothering someone or finding someone available to talk to.
Prayer is incomplete without fasting.
Fasting is the action that accompanies all the talk. It is what shows how serious you are. It’s where the rubber meets the road. This is when you start seeing results from your prayer.
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This is a huge topic that I’m sure will get its own post in the near future – answering questions such as what constitutes fasting, how to fast well, the benefits of fasting and etc. But for now, for me, fasting is primarily about silence. It’s supposed to be a secret!!!
When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:17-18
I see fasting simply as making tiny acts of self-denial throughout the day with a purpose behind them. For example, choosing not to complain about my back or my feet hurting, having one less chip/cookie than I wanted, not grabbing seconds at dinner, consciously choosing to react in a loving manner instead of frustration when my kids do something insane, having a glass of tea instead of a glass of wine without complaint, not putting sugar in my coffee, etc…
As this habit has increased in me, I feel the Holy Spirit asking me every so often:
“How much do you love?”
It is a constant reminder to me to ask myself:
- Am I serious enough about this particular prayer intention to do something about it?
- Do I care enough about my kids’ future enough to forgo this tiny pleasure / endure this tiny pain?
I have to admit that most of the time, my answer is no. Nope, I don’t love enough to not to cry about my sore feet. Nope, I’d rather eat that handful of chocolate chips than see my husband, friend, or child have a good day at work/school, marry the right person, find a good job, or make good decisions.
Wow! is it ever humbling to realize what my priorities are. Fasting is an amazing gauge for selfishness and how much you truly care… if not for any other reason, we should do it solely as a reality check in that department.
What are your priorities? How much do you love?
Instead of talking about writing that book – WRITE!!!
Instead of talking about how you need to make that appointment, or clean that closet, or get together with so-and-so – DO something about it. Take steps to make it happen. Dive in, take the plunge, don’t waste your time or your breath proclaiming all the wonderful things you will do, DO THEM.
LOVE – and worry about yourself…..
I know, sounds so counter intuitive. This has taken me SO long to process – I’m still not even sure I’m all the way there yet. It is all about humility.
Ask yourself WHY do you think you need to know everything about everyone else? Who are you to need to know if so-and-so broke up with so-and-so? How does that affect your life? Why does it matter? Why do you need to know all this information about other people? Why do you let it drain your energy, affect your moods, or influence your life? That is THEIR calling. THEIR life.
You are not God! (Shocking as that might be!) Even if you are their parent or their older sibling, you are not in control of their life.
At some point EVERYTHING is between that other person and God, and you and God. It’s not your job to fix their problems or worry about them. It’s only distracting you from worrying about your own. This is why prayer and fasting are SO important!
Honestly, we all know this deep down.
But, we love Gossip
That’s why we like gossip so much. It gives us emotional highs and lows without any responsibility. It makes us feel “important” in the lives of others, without ever having to do anything. We love to compare our lives to other people’s to make ourselves feel better or, for the masochistic among us, to wallow in a good pity party every so often. If we worry about everyone else (bad or good) it gives us the opportunity to ignore our own callings. Christ is demanding…. Opportunities to ignore Him can be quite attractive at times! But, we must constantly reorient ourselves to listen to what HE is speaking to us rather than everyone else.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t listen when a friend tells us something wonderful or terrible that happened to themselves. We should rejoice with them or be compassionate to their sorrows, but it should not affect our own lives. It should not change who we are or how we act. It should also DEFINITELY not leave our lips. If someone tells us something about themselves, it shouldn’t be considered public knowledge, nor should it take up space in our thoughts or our conversations with others.
So, when should you speak?
Speak most with and through your actions – not your words.
BE compassionate. Be kind. Take people meals. Donate. Volunteer. Make time for the people who need you most. Make time for God. Take care of yourself as befitting the beloved creation of God that you are. Take care of what He has given you to take care of. Don’t seek out other things to make you “look impressive” from the outside. Do what you are called to do and do it well. Trust me, that’s PLENTY!
Give advice when ASKED for it. Don’t give unsolicited advice.
Use as few words as possible, hopefully in question form (see #3). Nobody likes to be lectured.
When you speak, speak in question form….
They say, “The best teachers don’t give the best lectures, they know how to ask the right questions”. There is a big difference in telling people what to think and giving them the right food for thought to make their own freely-chosen decision.
Share stories that have passed – not conjectures about the future
Share your testimony. Share your joys. Share what can lift up, or otherwise edify and encourage others (good or bad). Don’t speculate. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t talk about people or situations that are none of your business. Don’t even give them space in your thoughts or power over you to worry you or distract you from your own path.
Use words ONLY when strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit
Sometimes you just gotta say something.
God uses us to speak to one another. Prophecy is a very necessary and highly undervalued gift of the Holy Spirit. HOWEVER, You NEED to cultivate a very close relationship with Him to recognize this prompting and in order to truly speak with the words He wishes you to use. It is not easy and comes with great responsibility. We must be careful never to say something is from God when it is not really. This is why all our speech should be preceded by a life of significant and consistent prayer.
In what way(s) is God asking you to train your tongue? Has He been working in this area of your life? Share your testimony below!