“To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is! The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.” Proverbs 15:23 & 28
These two proverbs truly need to be together. In a group discussion, saying those words that bring about an agreement with everyone is a joy. Having everyone nod in agreement that your words were indeed wise words is an excellent complement. However (sometimes I hate that word “however”), most of the time my mouth engages far before my mind has done much pondering.
St. Arsenius put it this way: “I have always something to repent for after having talked, but have never been sorry for having been silent. Many times, I spoke and regretted what I said, but about silence I will never have any regret.”
A truth that most of us have likely experienced on one end of it or the other: Once a word leaves your mouth, it can never be taken back. There have been times when no sooner than I said something, I regretted it. But it was too late…the word had been spoken. We can say “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it”, but the damage was done. Controlling this part of our lives is so very difficult. In fact, St. James calls it impossible for a human being (read all of James chapter 3):
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:7-8
Fortunately, we can make progress in this area. It may be an up and down type of progress as we grow in this area. Just when I think I have made great progress, I will be a little sleep deprived or a little stressed, and once again my mouth will engage before my mind. That does not mean that all is lost, it simply means that we should get back up and work on it some more. Here is one practice that I have found extremely helpful in my life and in the lives of others.
When I was a prison chaplain, I had some of the men ask me what they could do to stop using foul language on the Rec Yard. I showed them how to make the sign of the cross over their mouths and what to pray. I asked them to simply try it and see what happened. Every time, without exception, they would say to me something along the lines of: “How does that work? I didn’t cuss once!” I am a firm believer that this will work for everyone who takes the time to do it. If there are certain people that you are around that bring out the gossip, coarse talk, or boasting…try this before you talk with them the next time and see what happens. Put it to the test!!
Sadly, there are many people on social media (like Facebook) that should consider putting this into practice before they begin responding to others. Those replies or comments are actually words coming right out of the mouth. Otherwise good people seem to think they can freely slander, gossip, cuss, demean others, etc without any repercussions. Harm is being done to others and to self.
In this time of home confinement, there can occur times of stress, short temper, and frustration which can result in words that cannot be taken back flowing right out of our mouths. What a great time to try this out for yourself and see what happens:
Make the sign of the cross over your mouth and ask Jesus to be the Lord of your tongue and every word that comes out of your mouth.
May God bless and protect you each and every day…