Taming the tongue
The following Commentary tells the story which illustrates how the tongue can be harmful. The tongue can only speak what is in our hearts. The tongue - just as the rudder and the bits - can only respond to the will of the one controlling it. I hope the commentary is helpful.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Once Words Leave…
John had been going through a big crisis. An untrue rumor had been spread about him, which put him in a very delicate position with many in his company. He had been accused of "befriending" female clients. This was against company policy. Although John denied the rumor, no one believed him. Just prior to going to lunch, John had been meeting with the review board. They indicated that they would be deciding his case that afternoon. Weary, and in despair, John walked through the main door of the building. He was going to lunch, where he could quietly mull over his anger and despair. Steve, a colleague, saw John as he was leaving. Upon approaching him, Steve said, "John, I want to talk to you."
Unfortunately, John was so sure that he would be fired when he returned from lunch, that he didn't want to talk with anyone, and said so. "Steve, if you want to reassure me, please don't; I just want to be alone." But Steve insisted by saying, "hey buddy, it is very important that I talk with you; there's something I think you should know." With that, John quit protesting Steve's company. Walking silently to a nearby restaurant, both men went in and sat down. Once seated, Steve told John, "this morning I talked to the boss, and asked him to consider your case in view of some pertinent information I think he lacked." Surprised, John looked up at Steve and asked, "Why would you do that? And, what's this information you know about?" Sheepishly Steve turned to face the window and said, "I know you did not have an affair with your client." Puzzled at Steve's definitive knowledge, John looked at him, and waited for him to continue. Steve, whose face was turned toward the window, said nothing. Sighing, John said, "Steve I get the distinct feeling that there's more to this than you're telling me." Nodding, Steve said, "I know you're gonna wanna kill me when you hear this, but I need to tell you anyway." Taking a deep breath, Steve continued, "I know the rumor isn't true and that you didn't have an affair with your client because I'm the one who started the rumor." Stunned, John silently looked at Steve in disbelief. "You started the rumor -- why, and just what did you tell the boss? Guiltily, Steve answered quietly, "I told him what I've just told you."
After what seemed an eternity, Steve said tearfully, "John, what I did was stupid; I have been envious of you and so I said what I did, but I didn't expect it to go this far." "I didn't think the board would get involved and try to fire you, and yes, I did tell the boss, and he's going to tell the board." "I know there will be negative repercussions for me, but well, I know I have it coming." "I mean, I not only hurt your reputation, but your client's too-- I'm really sorry man." After pondering the information just relayed by Steve, John looked at him again, and said simply, "Steve, the rumor you started was hurtful, and I have been feeling bad about being fired, but I'm glad you told me -- I know it was hard for you to tell me this, but, if there is just one thing you hear from me this afternoon, I just want you to know that I forgive you." After a moment of thoughtful silence, John added, "hey Steve, If you're willing, maybe we can get together with our boss and brainstorm a way to come up with something to protect the client -- I don't know what that is yet, but I'm sure we can rectify this if we try -- together."
It would be really difficult to be as forgiving as John was to Steve wouldn't it? Its hard to be wronged by someone and then forgive and forget what they've said or done. According to the scripture, our words and actions are to be seasoned with the salt of the unconditional love of God. Yet, how many times do we allow pride, envy or jealousy to erupt from within. By not abiding with the Saviour --not keeping in union with Him, busy-ness or preoccupation take over, and when we least expect it, whatever is within comes out--and we are embarrassed and feel guilty. Christ has said that it is not what is external that defiles a human being, but that which comes from within (Matt. 15:11). For from out of the abundance of the heart do we speak, and from within come slanders, evil speaking, evil surmising, bitterness, rage and the like (paraphrased from Matt. 12:34; Eph. 4:25, 29, 31).
You know, even psychoanalyst, Freud, agreed with this biblical principle, for he has said, there are no accidents; for out of our subconscious mind, we do and say the things we intend to. Here's a little illustration: At a recent social gathering, a young woman, not having seen a friend for some time greeted him thusly, "how horrible to see you." The friend, being gracious and understanding said, "*Lisa (not her real name), why are you angry with me?" To which Lisa stated, "Oh, I'm not angry with you-- how silly; I really meant to say 'how nice to see you -- I don't know why I said what I did.'" According to Lisa, upon private reflection at a later date, "I realized that I was indeed angry with my friend." How many times have you or I said or done something which would be called a "Freudian slip," and never stopped to ponder what prompted our words or actions. Well friends, the Holy Spirit is in the process of revealing all kinds of little (and not so little) nasty things about us that are hidden from view. Christ wants us to see how we really are, so that we may gratefully receive His gift of repentance and be free. He wants to blot out all of our sin (self-love), and not merely the symptoms of sin.
Although we can and should ask for forgiveness for mean and thoughtless comments that we make, asking forgiveness is not enough. You're not sure what I mean? Let's look at the story above, and see if there is something which will help us on this point. In our story, Steve apologized for making untrue statements which hurt both John and the client's reputation, right? Now, do you think that apology alone will stop Steve from making other hurtful comments? Say no, and you'd be right. Why?Because the problem isn't just that Steve is making hurtful comments, but that he is thinking thoughts and feeling sentiments which allow him to try to hurt others. He needs to be changed from the inside out.
Some folks say, "well, I'm careful and I try not to hurt others like Steve did." But how many of us inadvertently hurt others by the snide or sarcastic comments we make? Then we say, "I was only joking, can't you take a joke?" Friends, not only do words hurt (unlike that adage that says, 'words can't hurt me like sticks and stones can), but they may cause damage which can never be undone. As a matter of fact, our words will go before us, and greet us in the judgment -- "... for by our words we will be justified or condemned (Matt. 12:37).
So far we've been talking about hurtful words, but what about flattery? Where does this fit into our picture? Are flattering words all right for Christ's followers to speak? Well, this is what Psalms chapter 12 and verses 3 and 4 have to say, "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?" According to Sister White, many a soul is caught in the snare of flattery which satan has set (through a well-meaning brother or sister --parenthetical comments are those of the authors').
Once words leave our mouths, they are no longer ours, for they have a life of their own, and go where they will. They are like ripples upon the water, or birds in flight. Following is a little known poem penned by an unknown author which illustrates the power of words, it is entitled "Flying Words".
Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds.
You can't do that when you're flying words.
'Careful with fire' is good advice, we know;
'Careful with words' is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed, may sometimes fall back dead;
But God, Himself can't kill them when they're said.
Friends let us be prayerful about our words. Scripture has within it many wonderful prayers, but here is one that is especially powerful, it says, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew the Holy Spirit within me; and Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my Strength and my Redeemer." (Psalms 51:10 & 19:14). Let's ask the Lord daily to fulfill this promise in us and then let's watch Him work. I think we'll be more than satisfied, and so will He.
Maria Greaves-Barnes &