One of my heroes growing up was the big cat trainer extraordinaire, Gunter Gebel Williams. He was the leading performer for many years in the Ringling Brother’s Barnum & Bailey Circus. His command over the lions, tigers, and leopards made him the central attraction of the greatest show on earth. I was in awe of his ability to tame and command the most ferocious beasts on planet earth with poise and grace.
In our Scripture today, James tell us that every creature on earth can be tamed, but no one can tame the tongue. It is the untamable beast! The tongue is full of deadly poison and can lash out and strike at any moment. So, here is the question to consider in light of this description of our tongue: What do we do when we have lashed out at someone? How do we respond when the beast comes out and spews venom through painful words and reckless talk? Consider these thoughts when your words have run wild:
- Acknowledge hurtful speech. As painful, harsh and reckless words can be, greater pain is often caused when we refuse to acknowledge what we did. It can be so healing to simply say, “I realize I was out of line” or “I know that what I said was hurtful.” Acknowledgement of the pain caused shows that we are aware of what we have said and are willing to move toward healing.
- Apologize! I know this seems basic, but saying, “I’m sorry,” and really meaning it, is often very hard to say. An apology reveals we are taking ownership for what we said, instead of getting defensive or deflecting blame. Oh sure, we may try to rationalize it, or explain our tone, but an apology is essential to move toward reconciliation. Don’t minimize the destructive power of your words. My motto is: Apologize, don’t minimize!
- Seek forgiveness. Offering an apology builds a bridge to seek forgiveness. There are few words that can be spoken with more power than “Please forgive me.” Asking to be forgiven reveals a heart of reconciliation and humility, and is the path to healing and renewal when our words have run wild.
Taming the tongue is impossible for sinful man, but we all can do what is right when our words have caused pain. Seeking forgiveness and reconciliation allows us to point people to the good news of Jesus Christ, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14
Do you need to ask forgiveness from someone? Ask God to give you the courage and the humility it will take to do it. And don’t wait! Do it today. Trust me when I tell you it will change your life!*
Taken from sermon by George Wright, Senior Pastor, Cedarcrest Church