Hold Your Tongue!

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“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” James 3:1-3

Yup! Therein hides a truth. Talk about being fast on the draw. Most of us would make the gunfight at the OK Coral look like a picnic in the park when it comes to our tongues. We Americans, in, particular have taken the idea of freedom of speech to mean, “Fire when ready!” We’re always quick with our criticisms of others, but rarely able to hear the often righteous criticisms of ourselves. We see hypocrisy everywhere but in our own actions and words.

We use words like weapons. We ambush others and steamroll over them in order to gain some competitive advantage, even in the most minor of situations. There are some of us that, when we get in range, people start shouting, “Duck and cover!” We are faster on the draw with our tongues than any of the famous old gunslingers ever pretended to be

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What was one of the first lies we ever heard? “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Woe! I’ve been cut in half and filleted by words from others before. I know the searing pain of that personally. Worse, I know I have done the same to others.

If anything needs to be taught the meaning of self-discipline more than our tongues, I don’t know what it is. “Among the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world in itself…” (Romans 3:6) We use it to bless the Lord–AND–to curse men who are made in God’s image… out of the same mouth. (Romans 3:9)

Even the teachers among us, who have gained the virtues necessary for preaching truly, must ask God to help us control that little rebel, our tongue. A little humble humor in the face of God’s truth is a good and healthy thing. We need to practice the ancient wisdom of thinking before we speak. Let your tongue be kind and your ears humbly open. God will do the rest.

God, give me sympathy and common sense,
And help me home with courage high.
God, give me calm and confidence
And please – a twinkle in my eye.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.