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Posts Tagged ‘tongue’

I am in the talking business. Honestly. Whether it’s in my current line of work serving the library public or my other life as an actress and presenter, or my private life of pure chatter, my mouth is in constant motion. How often has the flow from my heart been distorted without my knowing it?

James 3:8, 10 – 11
. . . but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. . . . Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

As I contemplated these verses today, I kept going back to the birthplace of the tongue’s motion. After all, the tongue is but a tool; it’s not like training an animal that has some personal will, the tongue is a medium. No, the message is born in the mind and heart and whatever taming is done must begin there.

The mind bears the content but the heart carries the emotion. They work in tandem and can equally obliterate the results.

For this reason, the impetus comes across as a restless evil, with a range of anxieties and uneasy moments, with unexpected impacts like a meteor shower of the soul, the heart and mind react. They form a thought or feeling before it is registered in reason. They are the knee jerk of the patellar reflex.

The hardest thing for me to remember and to accept is the inevitable damage of the reflexive, restless discharge from my mouth as it colors everything else. Like the salty spring that salinates fresh water, so my ill-conceived words distort even the best message.

I am believing, as the heart and mind are transformed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the tongue, poor stepsister, will respond to sanctification as well. But it has to be organic. Anything else will be a fake out and the words and intent will expose the truth within.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” [Matthew 7:16]

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Photo by Natdiastok

Wikipedia states, “pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms.” I do that.

James 1:26a, 27c
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, . . . keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Language is a gift that humans have. With it, we can calm a child, paint word pictures, bring joy and laughter, or elicit memory and sorrow; we can also ruin a reputation, fill space with toxicity, hurt someone’s heart, start a fight, or destroy a relationship. Just with words.

Sometimes I think I have a good knack with words, but too often, I misuse my gift.

Some years ago, I went on a silent retreat at All Saints Convent. I had been there before for shorter retreats but never in full silence. I didn’t realize this silence would also mean no one would engage me – not with eyes or touch or anything. It was like I wasn’t there. In my loneliness, I sought out books and wrote in my journal.

But I wonder, were there still too many of those words? Did I really go into the silence?

My daughter asked me the other day if I have ever tried meditation and could I really sit and think of nothing? I said I had, more in the realm of contemplative prayer, but the battle with words was tough. I can do the flowing river routine for about a minute, maybe. No, truth be told, I am still a slave to the automatic typewriter in my head.

I have said some terrible things to people and I’ve said some terrible things about people. It’s all gossip and diarrhea of the mouth.

People always say, “think before you speak” and the joke for me is that I often speak so I can hear what I’m thinking.

On Wednesday, I went to an acupuncturist in hopes of getting some relief from hot flashes. After the treatment, she said the process is a kind of drawing out of heat from the body and often it leaves through body waste. I’d like to dump some of those mean words the same way and flush them down the toilet.

You, out there: you I know and you I don’t know . . . please forgive me.

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It’s pretty important, this credibility stuff. I mean, if a person blows his/her believability or reliability, it’s hard to get those things back. Reputation is in that category.

I Corinthians 15:14-15a
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

In some cases, people don’t have credibility or reliability just by the nature of their job title, e.g. politician. And in some arenas, “Christian” carries about the same pall or dark cloud. If a Christian hurts someone or is caught in a grievous act, then all Christians can become suspect.

I remember how angry my mother was (even after 35 years) at the ministers who neglected to distribute food fairly in the displaced persons camps after World War II. She mistrusted all ministers. That’s extreme, but I think the point is still valid.

I also remember some years ago when I had only been working at a new job for only a few months. The “work room” was pretty tight and over 7 people and their workspaces were squished together into one room. It was a haven for gossiping and back biting. For a long time, I managed to stay out of it, but after a few months of exposure, I was digging in like the rest. One day, I passed one of these little luscious tidbits to another colleague and she said, “Oh, I’m so surprised to hear this from you, I thought you would never speak ill of anyone.” In that moment, I lost all credibility. I was devastated!

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [Proverbs 11:12]

This issue of gossip and judgment, without a doubt, my most besetting sins of all. I must desire to change. Clearly, I don’t hate this aspect of my behavior enough. God forgive me. Silence my tongue.

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I am too much like the little girl who doesn’t listen to her mother, “Stay away from the stove.” Instead, I wait until I get burned before the lesson sinks in. Simply put: I am overly confident in my ability to resist evil.

Romans 16:17b-18
Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

I don’t consider myself naive, but honestly, am I any better at dodging flattery than anyone else? Flattery is a strong lure for performance-oriented folks like me. We are working so diligently at “getting things done” and long-anticipated approval that we often mistake honeyed words for bona fide appreciation. We can be seduced.

That’s embarrassing, but true.

The best antidote is right here: avoid those people and situations. This advice is really in the same family as “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’m not very good at that one either.

As I contemplate this simple truth, I realize the main element is self-control. If I just stop and “look before I leap,” or “hold my tongue,” or “wait for the Lord;” each of these cliches could manifest a difference. The decision is internal and it’s made in the moment. It requires mindfulness.

Help me step back today and really see; really hear. Help me to breathe in wisdom. Help me to recognize evil intent.

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As soon as the Bible mentions “body parts,” everyone’s mind goes right to sex. And yes, there is a lot to be said about sex and its abuses. But there are other misused body parts that do equal damage to the soul. . .

Romans 6:13
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

The tongue is the number one culprit in my life. This is the body part that is constantly leaning toward wickedness and does much damage. If I could keep my words corralled and dedicated to God, what a difference it would make. Instead, my mouth goes into 3rd gear while my mind is still in “park.” I have actually warned people that I think out loud. I hear my out loud thoughts and then massage the ideas. In a brainstorming session, I can be a true asset: Blurt Out Brown.

But this type of talking can do harm when it turns into gossip. I can’t even say it’s always malicious gossip. It’s the constant telling and retelling of a story where I might have been on the short end. And unconsciously, every time I tell that story, the perpetrator gets more stupid and I am more wrongly maligned. The listener nods and “tsk-tsks” and I feel vindicated to tell the story again. Oh shame.

There are other abuses of the tongue: cattiness, sarcasm, complaint, crudeness, name-calling, and lies (to name a few).

As I think about it more, it’s clear the tongue is but a slave to another, more secret master: the mind. It is the mind that fans the flame and directs the tongue to speak, to answer, or to attack. The mind is the “first responder.”

I love the fact that I have an active mind. I am relatively smart and I can process a lot of data. I am creative and I am facile. But this same mind that has served me well has also spent a lot of time on the “dark side.” It’s time to flood my mind with the light.

I confess my sinful tongue and ask forgiveness for the damage it has done. Oh Lord, Guard my mouth this day. Show me how to offer my words to you before they leave my mouth.

Sensitize my mind to the sacred other that I might not inflict my wounds. Hold my judging thoughts and sift them before they can take root. Take the memories I have used to justify my resentments or anger toward others.

Take my life and let it be consecrated to you.

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Am I so sure that what I am saying about someone is true? When does gossip escalate to becoming slander? What is the motive for speaking badly of someone?

Romans 3:8a
Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”?

Motive! It gets me every time. I know the answer and I shrink at the thought of it. So often, I know, I speak badly of someone just to elevate myself. “Oh, listen to what ‘so and so’ did or said” and of course, the underlying implication is that I would never be so stupid or cruel or thoughtless. And yet, there I am being stupid, cruel, and thoughtless all the same.

I have a tendency already to talk and think at the same time. It’s like I have to hear myself before the thought is thoroughly formed. Generally, when I put my foot in my mouth, I just keep talking, back peddling as it were, and eventually, I manage to talk myself out of a corner. But too often, the words are said, the damage is done, and I have cast aspersions.

Over time, “gossip” has been symbolized by two women babbling in the back yard over a fence. It’s “koffee klatch” stuff, harmless. But really, isn’t it a form of slander?

Gossip and slander are sisters to pride. Why else would we imagine that it would be all right to say such things?

A man [or woman] who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man [or woman] of understanding holds his [her] tongue. [Proverbs 11:12]

Stop my tongue, this day, O Lord. Help me choose silence over chatter.

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