James 3 talks a lot about the tongue. In verse 2 it says that if we do not stumble in what we say, we are "a perfect man" because, well, I'll get to that in a second. The tongue is a reflection of our thoughts. If the thought hasn't crossed our mind, then we likely won't be saying it. Likewise, I'm sure that you, as well as I, have said something that you undoubtedly shouldn't have. Maybe it was gossip, or a lie, or not keeping a secret that you probably should have, maybe it was something inappropriate, or maybe you expressed something rather harsh to someone. We have all been there, and we have all said things that we shouldn't have. The tongue is one of the hardest things to tame. The whole verse of John 3:2 says, "For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body."
James 3:2 isn't saying that if you don't gossip, you're automatically perfect, but that if you can control what you say, then everything else will seem mild in comparison. But why do we have to control what we say? Why is it important to not talk about that girl behind her back? I mean, she totally started going out with my ex boyfriend and she knows that I'm still not over him! (Okay, not really, I'm just using this as an example.) But let's turn to an incredibly familiar passage in Matthew 7:12 which says, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." It is important to always be loving towards others, even if you don't necessarily get along with them.
God gave us our tongues not to tear everyone down, but to build them up, and encourage them. We were given this gift of speech to teach the gospel, not to tell Emily about how horrible of a person Sarah is. It's important that we always think before we speak, so we don't accidentally say the wrong thing and lose a lot of friendships in the process.