We’ve all been there before on one side or the other of the devastation that comes from words… Either you exploded and your tirade left people wandering what just happened or someone lost their cool and used their words on you to release all their built up tension. Words leave scars that cannot be removed. Yes, forgiveness can be extended, but forgiveness doesn’t equal forgetting. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” so if our words are powerful, then how can we ensure our words are strengthening relationships instead of building up walls?

Here are a few things to remember that will keep you in tune with God and allow Him to help you tame your tongue…

Saturate yourself with Jesus… Study the gospels. Discover how Jesus interacted with people. Notice how He came and lived full of grace and truth. Read Paul’s writings in the New Testament and be reminded of what it means to have your identity hidden in Jesus. If you are confident in the identity God has given you, then you will be more freed up to celebrate and enjoy the moments you have with others. You’ll be amazed at how much more life-giving your words become when agendas and pride are off the table.

Choose your words cautiously… In a day when freedom of speech is all the rage, we have to be wise with our words. The loudest most noticeable voice typically doesn’t have the greatest impact. Instead, I believe it’s the voice that speaks confidently and clearly at the right time. So remember this… just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you have to share it. Equally important is this… Choosing the right time to say something matters just as much as choosing the right words.

Resist the urge to prove yourself via social media/texting… The “always in front of us” and “always accessible” trap of social media gives us a platform to say whatever we want. Unfortunately, many people hide behind their screens and use their words to blast other people. Whether you are about to passive aggressively make a vague attack toward someone on Facebook or responding directly to someone via a text, you would be wise to not send that message based on your first draft. I suggest asking yourself these two key questions before you ever reply to a situation or a person where there’s tension via social media/text.

1) Is what I’m about to post/text something I would say in a face-to-face conversation with this person? If it’s not, then you should not post/text it. To do so in this situation only reveals insecurities that exist within yourself that are preventing you from having a real conversation with someone. There’s nothing more necessary in a tense relationship than a willingness to look someone in the eye and working through a difficulty with sensible conversation.

2) If I waited 24 hours, would I still say the same thing? Of course it’s easy to be mad in the moment and let someone know how you feel, but honestly, most of us don’t make great decisions when we’re emotional. Uncontrolled words in the heat of the moment can take years for the recipient to recover from. Let the initial emotions pass and then think about how you should respond.

We all struggle with our words and how to use them, but some of the tension in our relationships emerges because we speak way too quickly with an uncontrolled tongue. There’s more truth than we realize in James 1:19 when God says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Perhaps we’d be less angry with others if we weren’t so quick to speak?