A Vow of Partial Silence

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In a comment, Mama T brought up an interesting and, in my experience, largely true psychological insight. When we control our tongues, we go a long way to controlling how we feel and react to things.

This from James:

James 3:6-12

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

(An aside: I love the book of James, precisely because Luther so despised it. In order for Luther's theology to work, he needed to divest himself of James and Hebrews--compelling evidence that his system had flaws, if one were only to heed the evidence.)

In the Gospels, Our Lord tells us that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but rather what comes out of him. For what comes out of him comes out of the fullness of his heart. Think of your instinctive reactions to comments made around you/about you. Is it the reaction of the saints who say, "Thank you Lord for this humiliation, for this reminder of my lowliness in the scheme of things." Or is it (as in my case) more, "Who the heck does that bozo think he is?"

I think we start with an act of will--a vow of partial silence. With Mama T's friend it was, "No complaint shall pass my lips." By not complaining, her view of the world changed--there became less in the world to complain about. I would do well to start here. But I know that I need to go beyond. I need to promise myself never to speak about another person outside of that person's presence. And I'm not referring to gossip, which I have long abhorred, but even the truth in small negative things. Speaking these truths colors my perceptions of the persons about whom I am speaking. And as James says above, may I bless God and curse humanity that is made in his image? May the stream of my speech flow from both sweet and brackish water?

Bridling the tongue is the first step on the path to extending grace in our lives. God will work with us however we are, but when we make this promise of obedience, even though we do not initially feel it, I do believe that grace flows in so that soon we are feeling.

I look around the blogosphere and so much unpleasantness, so many dark things are the result of people "talking" to people they never meet. What flows out of the comment boxes can be vitriol and hell-fire. Not everywhere, not all the time--but it is so much easier to say ill of people we have never met.

Speech is more than what comes out of my mouth. In a very real way what I write each day is speech. It has the power to comfort or to confront, to wound or to heal, to offer a glimpse of grace or a glimpse of hell. Satan would have us believe that what we say is of little consequence. But both our Lord and St. James tell us otherwise.

So perhaps I should consider this vow of partial silence--simply to refrain from saying what need not be said. It sounds like the easiest, most reasonable, most logical thing in the world--and yet it is fraught with such enormous difficulties one wonders if it is even possible. But with grace and through Christ, I can do all things. He will assist if I am firm in my conviction that for love of Him I will offer no harm to any of His brothers, to any of God's children. Let my speech be always edifying, converting the sinner, changing hearts, offering comfort and a place to rest. That is my prayer as I wait for the coming of Our Lord. With joy and expectation, in hope that His time is soon, I wait and I thank God for this season to remind me of what it is I wait for and wait upon.

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Thank you for sharing this. It is so obvious and glaring a need yet it is so easy to ignore, put off, etc. May God bless and reward your efforts.

Thank you, thank you. What a good teaching.

And it's not just the complaints, it's the opinions, my goshawful important opinion that I must express at all possible moments.

I once resolved not to complain aloud. Like all resolutions, it needs to be renewed regularly, since after a while you start to reason that it's not a complaint, really, it's an observation that provides useful, if not welcome, information.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 8, 2004 8:23 AM.

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