Taming of the Tongue
Garbage in, garbage out. It is so amazing how much truth is packed into this one little saying.
When I worked outside the home, I had to constantly fight all the negative things I heard. One topic of conversation that seemed to be everyone's favorite was Bad Things Husbands Do. In minutes the conversation would become a high-pitched whirl. Everyone wanted to tell her story and one-up the last one. It was very hard not to get caught up in the moment. If I did not walk away, I knew I could easily get pulled right into the whirl and, even against my better judgment, feel justified in voicing the petty resentments I had toward my husband.
I also noticed that, when my prayer life was growing and I was spending more time with Jesus — the perfect lover — I was able to love better.
I learned in psychology that we often fear what we do not understand. As a defense mechanism, we tend to “tear down” the things that threaten us — including the people with whom we do not agree. To justify our own ways, we often gossip or speak poorly of others. Why? To assure ourselves that we are righteous and the other person is flawed.
Of course, as Catholics, we are called to a better way: Love one another as Jesus has loved us. Difficult? Sure. Doable? Definitely — with God's help.
Consider the Lord's Prayer. Toward the end of the Our Father, Christ told us to ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Think about what Jesus asks of us here. He says we are only to seek forgiveness inasmuch as we are willing to forgive.
This is a dangerous thing to pray! How many of us really take it to heart?
One of the ways to get in the habit of forgiving others is to make excuses for their behavior. Not in the sense that condones bad behavior or speech but to look at possible causes for their actions. We have all had people who have hurt us in one way or another. Instead of sowing seeds of bitterness and unforgiveness, which often lead us into slander and gossip, ask yourself why that person who is hurting you could possibly be acting that way. Are they insecure and in need of another's approval? Are they unkind because they have had little kindness extended to them in their life? Do they speak poorly about others frequently because they do not know Christ and that he loves each of us unconditionally?
As we learn to guard our minds against negative thoughts, we get better at controlling our tongues. When we look at others in love, as Christ does, we can see that their soul may be suffering and we can have compassion on them. What we allow in our hearts is reflected in our words — and our words are a reflection of our faith in Christ. We have all heard the familiar words, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
God's word tells us: “Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; nor does it brood over injury. Love does not rejoice in wrong, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-6).
Begin this month to weed out those things that cause you to speak poorly of others and fill your hearts with the seeds of Christ's love. Spend more time with him in personal prayer, read his word, receive him more frequently in the holy Eucharist and receive healing in the sacrament of reconciliation for your past moments of speaking poorly of others.
And remember: Jesus in, Jesus out. There's a lot of truth packed into that saying, too.