Just as the Bible illustrates many forms of bad speech, it gives detailed instruction on positive uses of the tongue. It tells us to use positive words in our relations with our spouses and children, and to be cheerful in our speech. The following practices will help us use our tongues in positive ways and teach our children to do the same:
1. Reminding ourselves of what we deserve.
If we remember what we deserve, we won't be so critical of others. One day, I began witnessing to a lady on an elevator. To my surprise, she responded by evangelizing me, saying, "My mama always told me anything above the ground is the mercy of the Lord." What a beautiful way to live, believing that anything but death or hell is because of the mercy of God.
When I was about twelve years old, I became frustrated with my mother because she wasn't sympathetic enough about a problem I was experiencing. She said, "You know, it could be worse.
I blew up and said, "You always say that!"
She said: "Well, it could be worse. And we would deserve that."
We are all sinners. We don't deserve the parents we have; we don't deserve the children we have. To help us control our tongues, we need to be aware of what we deserve. Likewise, teaching our children what they deserve as sinners will assist them in controlling their own tongues.
2. Speaking positively to our spouses.
We need to speak to our wives or husbands the way we want our children to speak to others. The way a man and a woman treat each other in the home is most likely how their children will treat their spouses one day; homes with harsh words usually give birth to homes with harsh words. If I treat my wife lovingly and with respect, my children will follow that example when they marry and have families. Actions speak more to our children than volumes of lectures.
3. Stressing the positives to our children.
We can counter the effect of a bad tongue by modeling a good tongue. We should speak honestly but lovingly. Also, we should speak kind words to others and go out of our way to compliment people who deserve it. How many times have we complimented our children this past week? How often did we tell them we love them? When did we mention their good qualities rather than their bad ones? How many times have we thanked them for their obedience rather than rebuked them for misbehaving?
We need to take care to affirm our children when they do right. When they commit grave acts of disobedience, we must deal with them, but our discipline will do more good if we have been affirming them all along for doing what was right. Then we have the right to say, "You are a wonderful son and I love you very much, but I am concerned about what just happened." The children will listen because they know we love them enough to correct wrong behavior; they know we are not being critical just for the sake of being critical because our usual way is to affirm good behavior and to stress the positives.
4. Being cheerful.
We ought to be pleasant and cheerful in our words. When we greeted our children this morning, were we cheerful? Or did we just sit down at the breakfast table with a grumpy "Morning" for everyone? We must set a good tone as parents if we want our children to appreciate others in the family. As the lady on the elevator reminded me, it is a mercy that we saw our children this morning, that they are alive, and that they are above ground. So, we ought to tell them: "Good morning! Great to see you! Did you sleep well?" We must let our words be cheerful and loving.
Use Your Tongue to Serve Jesus Christ
When a child tells his mother, "I love you," and means it, those words are worth more than any amount of money. A person's words can do a world of good. We should encourage our children to do good things with words. For example, on Thanksgiving Day, I go around the dinner table saying five to ten things that I love about my wife, about Calvin, about Esther, and about Lydia. Then Mary does the same with everyone in the family. In turn, all three children do the same. It takes a long time, but when we are all done, we feel bathed in love. It is a good custom.
Christ gave us a supreme example in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17). By word and deed, He poured out His love on the disciples. He said hard things to them, but not harshly. He rebuked and corrected with gentleness. He affirmed His love for them over and over. He ended by taking them to God's throne in prayer, commending them to the Father's love: "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1b).
We should set Christ before our families as an example. We need to say to our families: "Jesus Christ never spoke one wrong word. We are all sinners. Let us go to Jesus Christ and ask Him to help us by His spirit to tame our tongues. Let us seek grace to love as Christ loved, speak as Christ spoke, and walk as Christ walked."