James 3:2 states “if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, also able to bridle his body.
James 1:26 says “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
The Greek derivative of the word “bridle” is chalinagogon which means, to keep a tight rein on, to guide, to hold in check.
The process of bridling a horse in order to ride it with some point of control is a rather simple process for those with experience in doing so. A bit is placed into the horses mouth which when pulled on by the rider causes the horses head to face in the direction the rider wants it to go, essentially controlling the movement of the horse. Not every horse will take the bridle on the first try, but with discipline and practice the horse will eventually come to accept the bridle and the direction the rider gives it.
What is essential in understanding what James is saying regarding the bridling of the tongue is that without it, the person is unable to control himself. C.S. Lewis in a BBC recording said it this way. “Though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings….The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love [them]. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking [them] more.”
Have you ever noticed yourself being around someone who is always talking negatively? It’s quite natural for us in that instance to become negative in accord with that person. When one begins to think or speak negatively about a person or situation, feelings begin to grow and develop into further negative feelings, and then resentment begins to set in. People with a negative outlook on situations are less likely to succeed or to overcome an obstacle, and may continue further down a road of negativity where the end result of every situation is grim.
Police Officers are taught in situations that involve a great deal of stress to use positive self-talk to enhance their ability to think clearly and make precise decisions. Instances where peril lies about in a circumstance, those who tell themselves “I can do this” are more likely to be successful than those with the mindset of “this is too hard, or impossible”.
The mystery of what James is saying is that the key to self-control and discipline starts with the mouth and what you say. You cannot begin with disciplines of the body and expect them to result in disciplines of the tongue. It’s quite opposite. We as Christians must learn that in order to set the tone for our self-discipline, it must start with controlling what comes out of the mouth. Matthew 15:11 says “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person”.
We must start with what we say, not what we do. In order to perfect ourselves we must begin, even without feeling, to be disciplined. If we want to learn to love, we must speak love first, and feelings will follow suit. If we want to live without strife, we must learn to speak peace first. If we want to learn to forgive, speaking forgiveness will cause our hearts to forgive.
Begin by approaching someone you have enmity with, speak words of peace and encouragement to them and find your heart begin to change. On the contrary, if you approach someone to whom you do not like, put them down or cause them hurt and you will continue to despise that person.
If you want to become a “perfect” person, in the sense that James refers to perfection, you must start with control of your tongue, you must begin to speak love, peace, patience. You must not continue to put down, talk ill of or demote those around you with your words or you will never be able to truly walk in the ways of Christ.