Biting My Tongue
Rachel Olsen

"If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18 (NIV)
What a challenging verse Paul penned in Romans 12:18.

Several years ago someone close to me confided their plans to me. They told a few other people I know at the same time. None of us thought her plans were wise, yet no one said anything in response.

But me.

Feeling her plans weren't well thought out or grounded in God's Word, I feared she would wind up with regret and likely hurt other people in the process. I didn't want to see my friend make what I felt would be a big mistake. So I tried logically and lovingly to lay out for her the reasons I felt this way. She took offense and got angry with me. Honestly, I expected that. No one likes to have their plans blocked or their decisions questioned.

What I didn't expect was her to verbally to attack me, my character, my marriage and my role in ministry in response! But that's what she did, including some choice allegations and blatant lies.

I don't like to argue – at all – but that said, I'm pretty good at it when I'm mad. (I'm a communication instructor after all.) Once I reach boiling point, I can explode. And in the past I've let my emotions and my mouth run unchecked in situations like this.

I had a large load of ammunition I could fire back at her with, and more than half a mind to do so. But I also had the Spirit of God in my soul and the words of Paul memorized. So I chose to bite my tongue this time.

It was hard.

Feeling nudged by God, I resolved not to fire back or call her to task for what she had said. I resisted pointing out that my comments to her were an attempt to look out for everyone's well-being including hers. And resisted pointing out that her comments to me seemed hateful in return. Instead, I took all my anger, hurt feelings and lengthy "speeches" to Jesus.

I prayed while I waited for my hurting heart to catch up with my decision to overlook this offense. It took months for that process to complete in me. Hurt feelings often die hard.

As much as it was up to me, that's all I felt I could do.

It took a couple years for her to fully come back around, but she did. She also never went through with those plans. And the others in the group saw her attack for what it was: an unfounded tirade leveled in the heat of the moment.

Our relationship today is intact and she's even OK with me sharing our story. I firmly believe this is because I bit my tongue, and prayed with it rather than burning relational bridges. Though she questioned my character at the time, I let God be my advisor and my defense – and then let my actions speak for themselves. And I don't regret any part of that course of action, unlike those times in the past when I simply spewed.

One thing I've learned living on this planet is we sure have a hard time being at peace with one another. But when God's Spirit is given room to move in a woman's hurting heart, she can graciously handle conflict and overlook an offense. It's not easy, but it is worth it.

Hebrews 12:14 says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (NIV). So today, as much as it is up to us, let's allow peace to reign and Christ to be seen.

Dear Lord, relationships can be so hard to navigate. Help me know when to hold my tongue and pray instead. Help me overlook the little offenses made in ignorance or the insults made in the heat of an argument. And help me to also know when I should stand up and speak up. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If this devotion touched a chord in you, you’ll want to read chapter 4, “Keep a Heavenly Lawyer on Retainer,” of Rachel’s new book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

Visit Rachel’s blog and leave a prayer request if you need help biting your tongue or waiting on God to restore a relationship.
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Application Steps:
Train yourself to pause and pray as soon as you feel offended. Begin that habit today.

How do I typically respond when I feel offended?

Read all of Hebrews 12:1-15.

Power Verses:
Hebrews 12:14-15, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (NIV)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Friend of God said...

Thanks! This is right on target with what I have been thinking about the last few weeks. I have often prayed for God to help me bridle my tongue. when my emotions tend to spew over and out of my mouth flows things I then regret.
I seem to have no problem doing that with some people, but there are those who tend to get that perfect jab, that Satan likes to use, which gets my tongue wagging. Thanks for allowing God to use you, and for sharing a story that probably still has some ring of pain to it. I am glad your friendship has been restored :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I hae someone I need to call this morning that I was dreading. Now I am going to let teh Holy Spirit take over the call and let me and my tongue stay in the background.

Blogger Rachel Olsen said...

Praise God, Annonymous! I'll pray for that.

And Friend of God, yes, there is still a ring of pain there - which is why it is so important to bite our tongues before they unload!

Blessings to you both today.

I usually do ok with bridling my tongue outside of my home, but it tends to wag more at home. I did have an instance a few weeks ago, that a friend brought me to a breaking point after she had used me and my family. I was mad, hurt, and upset. It takes a LOT to get me to that point, and after saying some things I shouldn't have I left or I would have said more. I ended up emailing her to apologize, but unfortunately she hasn't said anything. I think the ties are irrevocably broken. :(

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for these words of affirmation! God has been dealing with me regarding this matter and we had a family discussion just last evening, turning to the Bible to read about the importance of weighing our words. I've decided to make it a focal point in our household during the month of October. God bless!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my EPIC FAIL!
I am a doer and lover of all... but I do have this biting tongue and though I would not be wrong or untrue in what I had to say, in defense of myself or others.. the key is - do I really need to say it?
Thank you for this. I'm printing this one and keeping it in my Bible. I'm sure I'll need to read it more than once.

Blogger Andrea said...

God certainly held my hand this morning and lead me to this beautiful post. I am currently strugeling with how to handle some mistruths passed along to members of an association that I belong to. We've acted in the best intrest of others, yet 2 induviduals have made a board of 7 out to be power grabbing individuals. I've struggles with what to do, as I don't want to jump in the sandbox. This post seals what God has already told me to do....let it go, as its not worth the ill feelings and severed relationships.

So happy you took the "high road", God's road :) He never stears us in the wrong direction.

And I always love your posts. I don't always comment, but I'm reading :)

Thanks again!

Anonymous Steph said...

Wow! I'm really working through the same thing right now and you are right. It is hard....I am really good at debating especially when I'm attacked but this time I just relied on the Holy Spirit to allow me to bite my tongue. Honestly, I'm still praying through it but I do feel better about my reaction to this situation this time!

Blogger Unknown said...

This is an issue that I deal with sometimes and it affects the way I come across to others. I found this devotion to be very encouraging and ask that you pray that God allows me to think before I speak and to know when and how I should confront someone with the truth, but in a very loving way.

Anonymous Victoria said...

I so appreciate this devotion and what it took for you and your friend to share it. Thank you. My tongue has always been my greatest struggle and I am getting better at it (thank you to the Holy Spirit), however, in the home-yuck. I am printing out this devotion, using the verses, making a study of it in my home, and looking for your book.

Anonymous L F said...

Wow! I need to learn to bite my tongue (maybe literally would help!) Really though, I struggle with my tongue so often and words spoken cannot be taken back. Please pray with me that I would learn to bite my tongue in moments where I'd rather say everything on my mind-esp. when things said to me are not true or are mean. Specifically, I need to hold my tongue as my husband and I are working through some very difficult issues. Thanks so much for such a timely devotion!

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks...I agree with "friend of God said...", it is so on target with a particular girlfriend of mine. After months of comments that were really meant in a condescending way, i prayed and told her that it wasn't really fun to be the recipient. I've been letting God take care of her and though i've tried communicating with her, i haven't heard back but i've been biting my tongue too and just pray the Holy Spirit will help out. I think that's the wisest course of action too, like today's post says :)

Blogger Irma@CosasBellas said...

TY so much for the words of wisdom, I love how one can ask a simple little prayer such as "Lord I know my anger is a secondary emotion that stems from my hurt feelings but I don't want to confront my cousin with a venomous tongue just to satisfy the flesh, so please, YOU take care of this" and not only did His peace immediately settle my heart but just a few days later he blessed me with your wise thoughts on this subject. TY again!

Anonymous Rach said...

Thank you for your wisdom. I had a not-so pleasant incident yesterday with a dear family member and I felt really bad about it. I have let my feelings get ahead of me and have spoken words that have hurt her. It is a lesson I am learning about holding my tongue despite being offended. regardless of who is right, I now realize that we dont have to insist to be right but rather it is more important to nurture the relationship. Thank you once again for your words. God bless

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