Watch that tongue!

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

YES, we have to be watchful with our tongue. It many times can be like a loose cannon, spewing all of kinds of inconsiderate and reckless comments. We have to have a good grip on it because it tends to be simply guided by emotions and passions and to be largely beholden to external factors and conditionings with hardly any consideration to the real score of things. In other words, we can be very tactless!

Christ somehow referred to this when he lamented over the misjudgments of some people of his time: “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and of sinners.’” (Lk 7,33-34)

This is, of course, a common phenomenon, now getting very serious in some places where the means of communication are well developed but the commentators are not as developed. There is so much bashing, slamming and bullying, fault-finding and inane, frivolous talk.

Especially in the area of politics, a lot of negativity is created and we cannot deny that we now have a thick smog of contaminating views and opinions that are so biased and subjective that even the basic requirement of fact-checking is thrown out of the window. Sometimes, commentators are caught merely inventing things, and they do not seem to mind even if they are caught with their pants down.

Perhaps, it is not so much in our country, thank God, as in other countries, like the more developed ones like the US and Europe where the media is powerful and the people are getting more and more articulate and expressive, albeit very biased, creating a perfect formula for toxic contentiousness.

We really have to be watchful with our tongue. Let’s remember what St. James said about it:

“A small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (3,4-6)

We should be very concerned about disciplining and taming our tongue, putting it strictly at the service of prudent reasoning that is inspired by faith, hope and charity. There is no other way to tame our tongue. Otherwise, it would just be at the mercy of instincts, emotions, passions, biases, and all sorts of conditionings.

With such discipline, we would know when and how to talk and when to keep quiet. We would know that in spite of our unavoidable differences and conflicts, we are all brothers and sisters, children of God, bound to love one another.

We should therefore be very delicate in our speech. This does not take away the forcefulness we would like to have in expressing our views. Forcefulness should not be seen as an excuse for bad manners.

We have to avoid gossiping. If we have to talk about somebody else, we should focus on the positive side rather than on the negative, even if a person has clearly made a mistake, and even a terrible one at that.

We have to be ready always with good and edifying stories, anecdotes and jokes if only to spice up our commentaries. That is why it is always good to make it a habit to collect good stories and anecdotes, and to be always prepared to speak well, avoiding as much as possible speaking off the cuff.