How Living in Grace Helps Us Guard Our Words

Man holding hand over his mouth(Please note: This piece originally posted on March 8, 2018.)

My words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

Considering the consequences wrought from my careless, and often damaging, statements, one would think I’d have learned to guard my words. But though I’ve memorized, prayed, and recited verses addressing this issue numerous times, I continue to stumble.

Here’s why: I’ve been fighting the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my mouth (or keyboard) runs a muck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him, and the intimacy that follows (rather than man’s opinion) my treasure.

Let me explain using Proverbs 18:2 as an example: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

Because we believe we know best, need to defend ourselves, or prove our point.

Often, this is triggered by fear (which, 90% of the time is rooted in pride)—fear of losing face or not getting something we want or hope for. But in our desire to elevate or defend ourselves, we can miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

Let me give an example. A while back, I engaged in a somewhat heated discussion with someone, one that revealed considerable miscommunication—things that were heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

Remaining oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all and therefore only exacerbated the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with more wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange, and as I often do, of my propensity to talk myself into trouble. Only this time, I went deeper, to my heart. How, I wondered, could I respond differently the next time when, so often, my words tumble out before my brain catches up?

Evaluating the whys behind my behaviors, I came up with a list:

  1. Recognize I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge this and prayerfully consider two women friendsways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it. I’m broken and prone to sin and nowhere near who God would have me to be, and yet I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride with humility as I recognize my need for Christ, and this in turn gives me the courage to grow.
  2. Recognize God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than “saving face,” I don’t need to defend myself or prove a point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, uncover the fear beneath, and then remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of action steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. To resolve them grace-fully, putting a guard rail on my tongue in the process, I need to take time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart, surrendering my pride and resultant emotions to Jesus so that He can love that other person through me.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned in my list? In the above, I suggested pride is often the root of our fears and fear is often the root of much conflict. Do you agree or disagree, and why so? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you leave, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter.

Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE.

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: Find Jennifer: Find Wholly Loved, at: Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

Posted In


  1. Hi, Jennifer–

    I have been meaning for some time to say how much your postings on the ACFW loop have blessed me in the past year. They are always seasoned with love, and to me seem very Spirit-filled and stand out head and shoulders from most comments. Really well done. I’d thought of volunteering for some of the blog editing you’d wanted at one point, but was a bit reluctant re the commitment. Your group of ladies and your ministry seem wonderful, though.

    Anyway, a constructive comment: I clicked on “Read the comments” below, but was only led to the chance to make one of my own. I couldn’t find the comments to read, and don’t know if others had the same problem. This was a very interesting post that hit me where I live, as I speak to my aging, ailing mother (who lives four hours away) about every other day and struggle with the desire to defend myself in almost every conversation. Recently I’ve been losing that battle, which has led to her calling me “crabby.” (Yeah.) So, thanks for the reminder, and onward …

    God bless, and have a grand day—

    Lori Closter

    ACFW Semi-Finalist 2017, YA

    (Maybe I shouldn’t have put all that? People just seem to, lol.)


    1. Hi, Lori! What an encouraging comment to read this afternoon! Thank you for your kind words. I love being part of ACFW, and have been so blessed by the wisdom and relationships formed there! Thank you also for your kind words regarding Wholly Loved Ministries. God has really blessed us with guidance as we seek to follow Him, and it’s been a blessing to grow and learn under His Lordship. I am very much aware that He could, at any time, “raise up men from stones” to serve Him in any way that He chooses, but to think that He cares to spend the time to grow and lead me and the other Wholly Loved ladies truly touches me and, I feel, shows His Daddy heart.

      I’m so glad today’s pot encouraged you! I read a book that has really helped me more consistently live in grace. It’s called the Ragamuffin Gospel, and it truly is a game changer! Blessings to you and your writing!

  2. Jennifer, u are such a blessing, I agree to it that pride is the root of our fear and fear is the root of much conflict.
    one thing about we believers is that, we don’t want to be corrected because of the position in which we are. For instance a pastor or an elder or a singer would always want to “save face” because of his position. The pastor fears that he may lose his congregation when he corrects them or when he (the pastor) himself is being cautioned/alerted about something by his elders. The singer or worship leader may not want to be corrected because he/she can sing that is” pride” also fears people will not love to hear him/her singing in the church or anywhere.
    With this fear in us we loose so many things from God. the bible says in Hebrews 12 that he (GOD)discipline/correct/rebuke those whom he loves. This correction comes from so many people to us but then we reject it.

    This is very bad may GOD help us all.

  3. Hi, Metolic,

    Thanks for the encouraging comment! You are so right, and I would also add, we often do not want to confront one another on poor behaviors or areas of growth opportunities out of fear of how they might respond or of losing the relationship. But God is showing me, it is an act of love and grace when someone reveals an area I need to grow in, and I am learning to be grateful for that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.