Lord, Muzzle my Mouth!
When tempted to complain, why not send up a silent prayer of thanks instead?
“I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.’” Psalm 39:1*
I never really knew what I did to offend her. But she left no doubt she loathed me. Scathing accusations and blistering insults blazed out of her mouth, leaving me burned and bewildered. I backed away and determined to stay away as much as possible. And then I remembered what my friend Charlene told me to do when confronted with unmerited criticism: “Don’t nurse it. Don’t curse it. Don’t rehearse it. Just reverse it.” Later, when everyone else had left work for the day, I went back to her office, laid my hand on her doorframe, and prayed for her needs to be met, her anger to subside, and for us to settle our misunderstandings peacefully. Every time I felt the nervous tension from that confrontation return, I breathed a silent prayer of blessing for her. It took a few months, but eventually she acted as though nothing had ever happened.
Remember how Jesus responded to his accusers? Silence. No pretending. No defending. He listened to what they said, but often said nothing in return. Although saying nothing might be the best response, saying as little as possible is the next best.
Dr. Kirk Neely, author and pastoral counselor, offers another means of mouth-muzzling when dealing with critical, negative people. If confronted by an undeserved tirade or criticism, he suggests responding with: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” After all, arguments and accusations are often built and sustained on feelings rather than facts. By using this limited verbal response, you acknowledge the accuser’s feelings, but do not agree with his interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the facts.
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” There’s nothing in that statement that can be disputed or that requires further discussion. Basically, it shows you were listening and that you heard what the other person had to say, but not necessarily that you agree. It’s a great way to honor someone’s feelings without compromising your own. When the conflict dissipates, chances are you can work together to reach a mutual agreement. If not, at least no lasting damage has been inflicted. Meanwhile, if you’re like me, there are plenty of other times your mouth may need a muzzle and your mind a redirection.
For example, when tempted to complain, why not send up a silent prayer of thanks instead? Regardless of your circumstances, give thanks for how God promises to work everything together for good.
When tempted to manipulate, breathe a prayer for God to take control and then determine to trust His sovereignty.
When tempted to over commit, resolve not to add anything to your calendar until you have prayed and considered the effect on yourself and all others involved.
When tempted to make derogatory remarks, muzzle your mouth until you can recall some redeeming quality or offer a sincere compliment.
When tempted to make comparisons, ask the Lord to help you be content with what you have.
In these and many other situations, keeping our tongues from sin is quite a challenge. Other than muzzling our mouths, perhaps the best way to be sure the words we do speak please the Lord is by constantly praying King David’s petition from Psalm 19:14*: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
“Know God, know eternal life! No God, know eternal damnation“
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