“Sometimes I can control my tongue, but other times it seems as if my mouth goes on without any help from my brain!”​—James.

“When I’m nervous I speak without thinking, and when I’m relaxed I say more than I should. So, basically, I mess up all the time.”​—Marie.

The Bible says: “The tongue is . . . a fire” and, “How small a fire it takes to set a great forest ablaze!” (James 3:​5, 6) Do your words often get you into trouble? If so, this article can help you.

 Why do I say the wrong thing?

Imperfection. The Bible says: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man.” (James 3:2) Human weakness makes us prone not only to stumble when we walk but also to say the wrong thing when we talk.

“Since I have an imperfect brain and an imperfect tongue, it’s delusional for me to say I have perfect control of them.”​—Anna.

Talking too much. The Bible says: “When words are many, transgression cannot be avoided.” (Proverbs 10:19) People who talk too much​—and listen too little​—raise their odds of offending others by saying the wrong thing.

“The smartest people in a room aren’t always the ones speaking. Jesus is the smartest person ever to walk this earth, and yet at times he kept quiet.”​—Julia.

Sarcasm. The Bible says: “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18) One example of thoughtless speech is sarcasm​—stinging words meant to belittle others. People who use sarcasm might say, “I was just joking!” But humiliating others is no laughing matter. The Bible tells us to put away “abusive speech, as well as everything injurious.”​—Ephesians 4:​31.

“I tend to be very witty, and I like to be funny​—qualities that lead to sarcasm, which often gets me into trouble.”​—Oksana.

Once you say something, you can’t take it back any more than you can put toothpaste back into its tube

 Taming the tongue

Learning to control your tongue may not be easy, but Bible principles can help. For example, consider the following.

“Have your say in your heart, . . . and keep silent.”​—Psalm 4:4.

Sometimes the best reply is no reply. “The way I feel in the heat of the moment might not be the way I’ll feel later,” says a young woman named Laura. “After I calm down, I’m usually glad I didn’t say what I wanted to.” Even pausing for just a few seconds can keep you from saying the wrong thing.

“Does not the ear test out words as the tongue tastes food?”​—Job 12:11.

You can spare yourself much grief if you test out what you have in mind to say with these questions:

“With humility consider others superior to you.”​—Philippians 2:3.

That advice will help you cultivate good thoughts toward others, which will in turn help you hold your tongue and think before you speak. Even if it’s too late and you have said something hurtful, humility will help you to apologize​—and to do so as quickly as possible! (Matthew 5:​23, 24) Then resolve to do better at taming your tongue.