At a ladies BSF group I attended, oh half a decade ago, we once had a substitute group leader who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary recently. As a group of young, mostly single, some engaged women, we asked her what the secret was to such a long (and she looked happy) marriage was. She replied, “Purple tongue.”
You can see the puzzled looks and raised eyebrows around the group…what’s “Purple tongue”???
The lady explained, “It’s when your husband is doing something or not doing something that you want to say something about…but you don’t. You hold it in or bite your tongue until it turns purple.”
One college aged girl exclaimed, “Wow, how times have changed! I don’t think I could do that!” And I’m sure a lot of us were thinking something similar. Really? Hold your tongue? Not say anything?? Really?
I think there’s something to that though…I mean, her and her friends’ marriages lasted decades until God called one of them Home. The marriages of our generation…well you know how it goes. A quick search for “tongue” references in the Bible describes a tongue that speaks thoughtlessly as a poison and a weapon. But a righteous tongue is like silver and brings healing. Proverbs 18:21 sums it up best, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
The power of life and death. That’s what our tongues can do to our relationships. Especially as women (though I’m not saying men shouldn’t also watch what they say)…women are just generally more verbally expressive. It’s a very good thing that the days of “speak only when spoken to” are gone in our culture….but I think with our freedoms and liberties to speak, we’ve forgotten about restraint and respect for others. Some things just don’t need to be said. Or some things don’t need to be said that way. Speak the truth yes, but speaking the truth in love is much better….if we need to speak it at all.
Among women, I think we can be a little freer to speak our minds….we “get” each other when we do so. We know how to motiviate or discourage other women with words. But with men…it’s different. They receive/interpret it differently. It’s not better or worse in any way, we’re made equals, but we’re made to be different. Perhaps it’s also to do with Eve’s curse that we inherited, that our desire is for our husbands, where some interpretations suggest that our desire is to control them. I don’t know. What I DO know is that sometimes I’ll let my husband know what I think….and have it blow up in my face. Other times I have caught myself wanting to say more, but held it back…and things have turned out well. So I do think practicing a purple tongue is very good advice that will make a bigger difference in marriage than I currently understand as a new-ish wife.
She shared a story, “The bulb in our garage had burned out so I pointed it out to my husband one day. Two weeks later he still hadn’t changed it…”
I thought of what I might say…”Hun, it’s been two weeks! How long does it take to change a lightbulb? And I didn’t even nag you! Come on…do it before watching your sports highlights!”
She continued, “…so I came into the house and said ‘Gosh it’s so dark in the garage I nearly ran into the shovels!’ My husband then went out and changed the bulb right then and there.”
I gotta unlock this secret of the Purple Tongue.