All of us can remember having been
hurt by somebody speaking without thinking and stinging our heart, and leaving
a lasting bad memory. Also, all of us remember having opened up our mouths
without sufficient reflection and wounding our brother, sister or friend! Immediately after the word slipped out of
the mouth, we wanted to fish it back in, but no, too late! Once the word has been uttered, no “muting”,
cancelling or postponing its arrival to the ear and heart of the listener.
Jesus speaks very clearly about our
words: “Every word that comes out of the
mouth will be subject to judgment.” St.
James dedicates almost an entire chapter (chapter 3) to the sins of the tongue.
In short, the Apostle underscores the importance of learning the art of speech,
reminding us that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. He reminds us that man can control almost all
types of animals, but not the tongue.
Moreover, he says that the same tongue that is used to praise God ends
up by cursing one’s neighbor. This is wrong!
Therefore, we would like to offer
five short suggestions to help us to utilize our tongue, our speech, our words,
our conversation as a means to truly edify our neighbor—that means, to build up
First suggestion! We should make it a habit to first talk to
God and then to talk to our neighbor. It
was said of the great St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers among
which were the great Preachers (“Speakers”) St. Albert the Great and his
student St. Thomas Aquinas, that he would first talk to God and then talk about
God to others! Superb! Ideally that should be our motto and
objective in life with regard to speech--- that our words would in some way be
communicating the presence of God to others!
Second idea! Think before you speak! St. Ignatius observes that a soul agitated
is in a state of desolation; in this state it is not the good spirit that is
guiding us but the bad! Speak after
reflection and with a calm and peaceful mind!
Rushed and impetuous words from unclear or muddled ideas will often
cause confusion and hurt. Avoid it!
Third counsel! SILENCE!
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in the past few months has insisted
on the capital importance of cultivating silence in our daily lives! Today we
suffer from noise pollution! Radio
talk-shows, “Rock n’roll” music, non-stop TV programs, dogs barking into the
late hours of the night, adding to that
non-stop useless chatter, often filled with gossip--- all of us have
experienced these scenarios all too frequently! The Holy Father went so far as to say that
if we do not have zones of silence, then we really cannot understand the person
who wants to talk to me! Silence
creates an interior space for listening, then listening disposes us for union
with the Holy Spirit; finally the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray and then to
listen attentively and charitably towards our brothers and sisters!
Fourth, a Biblical counsel of great
importance: THE GOLDEN RULE! The “Golden
rule” enunciated by Jesus Himself is very simple but everybody in the world
understands it: “Do unto others what you want them to do to you.” Why not take the Golden Rule one more step
and apply it specifically to our speech.
That is to say, “Do unto others what you want them to do to you, but
most especially say to others what you would want them to say to
you! Try it out!
Fifth, at times it is not clear if
what we are saying is harmful to others or beneficial; it is not always crystal
clear! What could be of great help in this matter is to imagine that
during the time of your conversation, your choice of words, tone of voice and
even facial expression, that three very important persons are present there
during that conversation. Those three
persons are Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph.
Ask yourself this question: “If Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph were
present during the conversation and listening to your words, would they be
nodding a smile of approval?” This is
the acid test for followers of Jesus! Are our words pleasing in the sight of
God, His Holy Mother and Good St. Joseph—who never even said a word in all of
Conclusion. Jesus said that from the abundance of the
heart the mouth speaks. Also Jesus warned us that we will be judged by every
word that comes out of our mouths. St. James warns us to be slow to speak and
quick to listen.
In the Diary of St. Faustina she
admitted her three primary faults were: 1) Pride in not being open to her
Superior Irene; 2) TALKING TOO MUCH!!!
She admitted honestly that Jesus
revealed to her that at times He preferred her to be silent rather than to
speak for two reasons: a) the person
would not profit from her words; b) it would be much more beneficial for the
souls in Purgatory her prayers( in those moments) rather than her conversation.
Finally 3) she did not always observe the Rule faithfully.
Let us remember the challenging
exhortation of the Franciscan Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure: “We should open our mouths on three occasions:
to praise God, to accuse ourselves, and to edify our neighbor.” Faithful to this exhortation, we will surely
avoid many slips of the tongue, anoint our words with the Spirit, and store up
for ourselves an eternal inheritance in heaven!
May Our Lady, who pondered in her
Immaculate Heart before speaking, teach us to magnify the Lord in our words and
to truly edify our neighbor! “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit
rejoices in God my Savior.”