Can Shutting Your Mouth Improve Your Life?
Have you ever blurted something out and wished you could suck the words back into your mouth like a vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt? Dirt is the operative word here. Sometimes what comes out of our mouths cannot be categorized any other way. I don’t know about you, but my mouth was my biggest nemesis for most of my life. The lack of control of it cost me dearly.
When praying and believing for my husband to give up drinking, God clearly instructed me to leave Tommy in His capable hands. In my heart, I knew that meant keeping my mouth shut. But did I? It took me about three and half years to follow orders from headquarters. Three and half years of struggling, cajoling, whining and complaining. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took that long. I’m hoping that in doing so, I can save someone else from some misery.
It took me that long because I had been trying to “fix” my husband for years. I can tell you from experience that people don’t change people, God does. He used my husband’s alcoholism to sand off some of my rough edges and teach me the value of a closed mouth. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death are in the tongue. It also instructs us to choose life. Choosing life for me meant keeping my big mouth shut.
By the grace of God, my husband got sober and has remained that way for over twelve years. God worked on my codependency issues long before moving on to my husband and his disease. I believe that just as an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, a codependent will always be codependent. The alcoholic resists the urge to pick up a cocktail, and the codependent resists the urge to “help” or “fix” the people that we love. And that includes putting our two cents in when we should keep quiet.
What I figured out after years of struggle is that the more I told my husband what I thought he needed to hear the less he listened. I was doing more harm than good. The alcoholic is like a child in many ways. In fact, studies have shown that the brain becomes stuck at the same level of maturity it was in when alcohol or drug use began, a term known as “arrested development.”
My husband’s abuse of alcohol began when he was sixteen. If you have raised a child you know how trying the teenage years are. Your teenager is sure they know more than you do about everything. Think about how your teenager reacted when you told them to do. In many instances they did precisely the opposite, am I right?
So here I am, telling a fifty-something-year-old man what he should be doing. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how that worked out. I know that most of the time I opened my mouth my husband heard what the Charlie Brown cartoon characters heard when an adult spoke, “wah, wah, wah.” He tuned me out with ease. I would become livid! I would see red and steam would be coming out of my ears while the entire situation rolled off of my husband’s back like water off of a duck.
Do I have any brothers and sisters out there? Are you feeling my pain? If you understand where I’m coming from, I have some advice for you. Shut your mouth! Sorry to be so blunt but the truth will set you free. You are doing more harm than good. Your mouth is your worst enemy.
You may be thinking, “If I don’t tell him/her what they need to hear, who will?” The simple answer is God. He may have been trying to speak to your loved one for years but that person can’t hear Him above your noise. It was certainly the case with my husband. I found out so much more about what was happening in my husband’s head when I shut my trap.
Quite a while after Tommy quit drinking I found out that he had been fervently praying to give up the bottle. He had called the Alcoholics Anonymous hotline repeatedly. He was trying to get well, and I was clueless. I was also clueless about the amount of pain he was feeling. I hadn’t bothered to talk to him about his disease without being accusatory or demeaning. I was too busy worrying about how his condition was affecting my life and me. I was too busy patting myself on the back for taking care of and putting up with him.
Taking ownership of the part I played in my husband’s downhill slide was one of the hardest things I had to face about my codependency. That is a subject for another post. I’ll get back to the mouth and tell you what happened when I shut mine.
Without my nagging, my husband was able to hear from God. And when I shut my mouth, I was able to hear from Him too. God placed compassion in my heart for my husband that I had been incapable of feeling when I was telling Tommy and everyone that would listen what a jerk he was. Not talking to others about my husband and his alcoholism came much easier to me than not nagging him about it. But in time, I was able to do both.
When I honestly gave my husband and my mouth over to God, the miracles happened. For starters, I was much more joyful and at peace. I could be happy while I waited for my miracle. My joy did not depend on my husband or anything he did. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that brought. And when God knew that Tommy was ready, He got Him to seek professional help. I had nothing to do with it. God used some mailboxes and children to shake my husband up, and he then pursued help. For the rest of that story, you can read my memoir Born Again in a Biker Bar.
If you believe that your mouth could be getting you into trouble or that it is doing more harm than good I’d like to make a suggestion. Before your feet hit the floor in the morning ask God to keep a watch over your mouth. I memorized Psalm 19:14- Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. I posted a copy of it on my mirror, in my car, and on my desk. It changed my world, and I know it can change yours too.
For more scriptures on the mouth, I recommend Joyce Meyers book The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word. It’s a great little book with Biblical help on every subject. I share encouraging posts on spiritual growth on my blog at catyson.com. My Facebook group Love Notes From the Lord is a place for encouragement too.
God bless. Charisse Tyson