Saint James warns us that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. (Please Read James chapter 3—an excellent treatise on the sins of the tongue). The Imitation of Christ asserts that few have regretted for having refrained to speak; whereas many regret having opened their mouths when they should have kept it shut.  Still more, Jesus warns us that every word that comes forth from our mouth we will be judged; and Jesus says:  “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Finally, St. Bonaventure asserts that we should open our mouths in three occasions: to praise God, to accuse ourselves and finally, to edify others—hopefully this will be our criteria for speaking!

The primary purpose for the gift of speech that God has given to the human person, endowed with intellect and will, is to communicate the truth with love! The truth must be communicated in speech, but condimented with the savory seasoning of love.

What might be ten fatal flaws that result from improper speech? Better preventive medicine than curative. The reason being: once the word has issued forth from the mouth it cannot be retrieved, as is the case when a rock launched in the direction of a window pane, it cannot return to the hand but suffers the consequence of the shattered window.

1.    LIE.  Lies should be avoided at all costs.  A lie perverts the proper end and purpose of human speech, by falsifying the truth. If all were to lie then human solidarity and living would be literally impossible because nobody could trust the other but always would be living with the suspicion that the other who speaks is deceiving.  Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. Therefore, in a very real sense liars are sons/daughter of the devil! Strong jargon but true!

2.    WHITE LIE.  Many will justify the lie by saying that it is only a white lie, an inoffensive lie, that nobody will be hurt, or even that is was said to avoid doing harm to the other person. Once Charlie Brown talking to Lucy said that what he told was only a white lie. Lucy responded:  “Charlie, I did not know that lies come in colors.” In sum, your speech should always communicate the truth in the big as well as in the small. Jesus reminds us that those who are faithful in the small will be faithful in the large.

Why yell, he is not deaf???
3.    SHOUTING/YELLING.  Frustrated people who have little self-control often have recourse to yelling or shouting, with the hope of moving the listeners to action; this might be the case of mothers with their children. The end of getting the children to submit in obedience will not result; on the contrary, the children will pay even less attention to the overly-emotional and uncontrolled mother. If need be, give fraternal correction but with calmness and peace!

Tongue is like a wild-fire! (Saint James)
4.    SLANDER/CALUMNY.  At all costs we should strive to maintain and defend our own good reputation but also the reputation of others. All have a right to the defense of their good name. Therefore, calumny or slander can be defined as “character assassination”—that is to say, killing the good name of another. Actually it can be categorized under the 5th Commandment:  “Thou shalt not kill.”

5.    GOSSIP.  All too prevalent in the modern society is that of the gossiper. Such a person always finds the negative in the other person and speaks about it behind the back of the person. Gossipers cause damage in many ways: they hurt God who hears all things; they hurt themselves by sinning by their speech; they hurt the persons listening to their gossip; finally and most obvious they hurt the person against whom they are gossiping. If you are a gossiper or listen to gossip, stop right now! Remember, Jesus says that every useless word that comes from your mouth you will be judged! Be prepared for judgment day!

6.     SARCASM IN SPEECH. Utilizing sarcasm wounds charity; it is like adding salt to the opened wound. It hurts burns and smarts!  The sarcastic person belittles, disparages and pokes fun at others, gets the listeners to laugh and degrades others and their innate dignity. Before giving in to sarcasm apply the Golden Rule. How would you like it if you were to be the butt of a sarcastic joke??? Do to others what you want them to do to you. Say about others what you would like them to say about you!

St. John Nepomucene: patron  of seal of the confessional
7.     BREAKING CONFIDENCE.  If what you have heard is meant to be kept in confidence, not revealed, or if you like kept secret, then best to keep your mouth shut and sealed. Priests must maintain the seal of the confessional. Professionals are obliged to maintain confidence in many cases. In this case the proverb: silence is golden indeed is very true. Therefore, with respect to speech sometimes we are obliged simply to remain silent, a very eloquent silence indeed!

8.    BLASPHEMY.  Of the utmost serious character is that of blasphemy. What them is blasphemy?  In Father John Hardon’s Pocket Catholic Dictionary (page 51) we read: Blasphemy: “Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. Included under blasphemy are offenses committed by thought, word or action, serious contemptuous ridicule of the saints, sacred objects, or of persons consecrated to God is also blasphemous because God is indirectly attacked. Blasphemy is a grave violation of charity against God. Its gravity may be judged by capital punishment in the Old Testament, severe penalties in the Church, and in many cases also of the State.” A concrete and modern example of this was the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was desecrated by pouring blood over the statue shortly before Christmas (2015) in Oklahoma. May God have mercy on us!

Let us bless rather than use abusive language
9.    ABUSIVE AND VULGAR LANGUAGE. Not as serious as blasphemy nonetheless still an abuse of speech is the all-too prevalent proliferation of vulgar language. Often words are used to degrade the human person, the intimate act that God has designed for the procreation of new human beings. This is wrong and should be brought to a screeching halt for those who are in the habit of using such ugly and indecent language.   We should never forget that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. If we are Catholics then our tongue receives the Body and Blood of Jesus every time that we receive Holy Communion. We should act according to the dignity of who we are—Temples of the Living God; as well as our destiny—future citizens of heaven, our eternal home with God forever!

10. BRAGGING/BOASTING.  Another form of speech that we should eschew is that of bragging or boasting. What is this form of speech?  It is when we are praising ourselves, placing ourselves above all lauding and adulating our own greatness. In this we attribute our successes, merits, awards and rewards all to our own greatness. This is very displeasing to God because this is the essence and epitome of pride! God lifts up the lowly but despises the proud of heart. Our Lady in her Magnificat expresses this truth:  “God has looked upon the lowliness of his handmaid… He has cast down the might from their thrones but has lifted up the lowly…” Our attitude of heart should be that of the Psalmist:  “Not to us, not to us but to you O God the honor and glory…”