CLERGY CORNER: Watch your mouth!

Posted on 28 March 2019 by LeslieM

President Calvin Coolidge was known to be a man of very few words. He was nicknamed “Silent Cal” because of this propensity. His wife, Grace, once related the story of a young woman who happened to be seated next to her husband at a dinner party. The young woman told the president that she had made a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. President Coolidge quietly responded, “You lose.” He had learned and mastered the art of carefully selecting words that kept his responses brief and to the point. It is a skill that we would do well to develop for use in our conversations and communications with each other. Mature people have learned not to utter everything that comes to their minds, especially in heated and emotional conversations. They have realized that there is a responsibility that comes with speech and thereby they choose their words carefully.

In a world where passions are easily inflamed by the words that we use, James 3:5 reminds us just how dangerous loose lips and an unrestrained tongue can be. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that (MSG).

In recent months, we’ve seen images of the awesome devastation caused by fires in California. Thousands of acres burned up, numerous homes and neighborhoods devastated, and the heartbreak of families that have lost everything. It is reported that the 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and has caused the greatest destruction on record in California. When you consider that a tiny spark can produce a raging inferno in nature you can begin to understand the destructive power of the tongue.

How many friendships have been ruined, lives irreparably damaged, marriages broken, fights erupted and wars declared because of the negative potential of the tongue? It may be small in comparison to other parts of the human body, but the tongue can be lethal. It is our chief means of communication and expression and is the first skill that we master after birth. Consider that, even before forming words and coherent speech, babies announce their presence, demand attention and have their needs tended to by crying out loudly, and making noises with their mouths. Mastery of speech and language enables us to communicate clearly as we grow. Consequently, we’re conditioned in our relationships to respond to what people say in our conversations. Maturity is revealed in using the right words at the appropriate times.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8 NKJV). Ouch! With a direct and blunt comment James further reminds us of the attention we need to pay to our words. Thoughtless or emotionally charged speech can get out of control very quickly and change the mood of a conversation. Some people pride themselves on speaking their minds and have no qualms about making their points in a direct manner, but caution is required to avoid escalating the dialogue into an argument.

Washington Irving, who wrote Rip Van Winkle, once said, “A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.” James suggests putting a bridle on our tongues (James 1:26)to keep our words and conversations in check. In other words, exercise some restraint when you speak.

William Norris, an American journalist, once wrote great advice for tongue control: “If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where.”

Perhaps if we simply listened to what our parents, teachers and elders told us growing up, we would have better control over our unruly tongues — “Think before you speak, choose your words carefully, and watch your mouth!”

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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