I imagine that for every time I have held my tongue, and been grateful I thought before opening my mouth, there have been times I opened first and thought later. Usually with poor results. I talked this over with some of the family members, taking an unofficial poll of why we sometimes behave this way. Some reasons we have ‘felt the need’ to speak [without thinking it through] include these:
- Having a difference of opinion, and wanting to make sure our point of view is heard.
- Explaining – sometimes several more times than needed — that point of view.
- An emotional reaction to someone else’s words or actions.
- One-upping someone who ‘needs to be put in their place’.
- Assuming people already know what we’re going to say because they know us well enough.
- Tossing out a sarcastic remark because it was ‘clever’.
- Running at the mouth [not knowing when is “enough, already”].
- Assuming our feelings are shared by all those around us.
- Automatic response.
- Feeling the need to give advice.
- The impression that –whether or not it is right — it is the thing to say at the time.
- Wanting [too much] to contribute to the conversation.
- Filling an uncomfortable silence.
- Anger, upset, or excitement.
- Thinking only in the moment, without thinking about ramifications down the road.
- Just not thinking.
It became apparent that any and all reasons boil down to this: we do not have ourselves in proper control. To shift that list of negatives- the reasons our family came up with – to positives, we discussed the need for controlling ourselves and paying attention to heavenly direction. One of the kids shared that when we are working to master ourselves, we are more likely to be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Here is a short list of blessings that come to us through that Spirit:
- When impressions come, we will know whether or not to speak.
- We are prone to place selfish needs on the back burner.
- Negative feelings will not impede the communication process.
- We will remember the need to think it through in our minds and in our hearts before we lash out or speak inappropriately.
- We will act rather than react.
- We thwart Lucifer by avoiding contention.
- Things will “end well” much more often than not.
- We can know we made a better, higher choice by listening to the still, small voice.
This mortal time gives us experience as it allows us to learn to control our impulsive nature and wayward thoughts. In one of my “go to” books, entitled Favorite Quotations from the Collection of Thomas S. Monson [Deseret Book Company, SLC. UT.1985, p.176], there is a fine quote worth pondering:
“The difference between what we call a good man and a bad man may not be so much the impulses they have as how they control them.” This certainly pertains to the kinds of conversations we choose to engage in.
The Savior put it a perfect way when he warned “that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an accounting thereof in the day of judgment.” [Matthew 12:36.]
What are the reasons you may speak before thinking about it? It is worth the self-examination. Simply choosing to go through this process can help pinpoint where improvement is needed, and what tactical tools should be employed for success.
For instance, as a mother, it became apparent that in order to keep a greater measure of peace in our home, I would sometimes need to bite my tongue. I have literally done that on many occasions. Picking my battles is worth biting my tongue over. What is comical or dear to my heart to the point of laughter may hurt tender feelings, so the laugh needs to be swallowed rather than outwardly expressed.
Sometimes I have made a valid point to one family member or another who chose not to take my advice. Rather than quibble over it, I have bit my tongue and let it go. They have the opportunity to learn on their own. These sort of small choices allow a greater love to prevail.
I relish those times I have done it right! And squirm at the times my response was not appropriate. I have not mastered this weakness – oh no – but I am enjoying working on it. I imagine those I love are enjoying it as well!
The Lord knows us. With Him, we can be assured that there is no misunderstanding. [“The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7],
Our family members, friends, and associates – though they may love us and understand a great deal about us – don’t possess that absolute clarity of discernment. So as we move along in this joyful mortal journey, one small bit of advice that may make a great deal of difference for good: Bite (y)our tongue!