Taming the Tongue on Social Media

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back? Maybe it was in a moment of frustration or stress. Or maybe it was just an accident, but you heard yourself saying something you quickly lamented. It’s true that the tongue can be a restless evil in our lives, one that is impossible to tame (James 3:8). I still cringe thinking back to things I’ve said to people I care about over the span of my life. I’m reminded of how much I’ve been forgiven and how much I continually depend on grace. Even as an adult, I still have to be careful with my speech.

The lessons of James 3:1-12 are timeless — all people at all times must learn to tame the tongue and see the immense power it has in steering the course of our lives. I believe the power of the tongue for both good and evil is exponentially increasing in our day. Social media can spread our words like wild fire.

Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung recently blogged about “The One Indispensable Rule for Using Social Media.” I found it thought provoking. DeYoung contends that the one rule we should all follow is:

Assume that everyone, everywhere will read what you write and see what you post.

This is good advice. It’s natural to occasionally use social media to rant and rave, or vent frustrations to our Facebook friends. We may even feel consolation when friends affirm us with their comments and likes. But this may not be a good idea. Is this what we would say to each of our Facebook friends face-to-face? DeYoung explains:

It’s amazing what some people post online. Do we forget that a thousand other folks are reading this intimate declaration of marital affection or this lambasting of all that their family holds dear? I wonder if people realize that what we post is who we are to hundreds or thousands of people. So no matter what we think we are like in real life, to most people who know of us, they only know us as that guy obsessed with Ron Paul or that girl obsessed with dieting or the pastor who seems to hate everyone or the cynical college kid or the older guy checking out strange things through Socialcam.

It’s wise to think about how we portray ourselves to the watching world through social media. Your Facebook friends and Twitter/Pinterest followers have a window into your very heart. For good or bad, they make assumptions based on what you share. Jesus taught that our speech flows from our hearts (Luke 6:45). Bad speech is not primarily a speech problem; it’s a heart problem (like all sin). And if it’s true that through our speech others can see our heart, then through social media they may see to the very depths.

It’s remarkable how phenomena like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest emerge and so quickly become common place in our lives. It’s prudent to think about how we use these tools and how they may be fundamentally changing our lives. Consider the difference between misspeaking in front of a couple friends and posting something on Facebook for hundreds or even thousands of people to see.

As DeYoung concludes, “So be careful little fingers what you post. The internet is like God and like the devil. It sees all and forgives nothing.” Agreed. Let us be mindful of the exponentially increasing power of our words and choose them carefully.

How do you determine what is good to share on social media?

About the Author

Andrew Hess

Andrew Hess is the senior editor of ChurchLeaders.com at Outreach Media Group. He teaches Bible and Psychology classes at Colorado Christian University and is a graduate of Denver Seminary. His writing has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Leadership Journal and Boundless. When not working, Andrew is usually enjoying scenic Colorado, teaching Sunday school, or buying a priceless antique at a local garage sale.