Chapter 10 – Bridle Your Tongue
Bridle Your Tongue
X Bridle Your Tongue (click to download pdf)
Experience teaches us that great results, both in good and evil, oftentimes come from small beginnings.
Some years ago one of the largest cities in our country was almost entirely destroyed by fire. How, do you think, did the fire get started? A woman, they say, was out in the stable late in the evening, milking her cow. For some reason or other, the cow got contrary and began to kick; and it happened that she struck the lantern that the woman had set behind her on the floor. From the lantern the straw caught fire; and pretty soon the whole stable stood in flames. It was too late to quench the fire; it passed from house to house, until nearly the whole city was one sea of fire. Do you see? From the little flame in the lantern came the big fire that nearly destroyed a great, large city.
St. James says: “The tongue is indeed a little member, but it boasteth great things. Behold, how small a fire kindleth a great wood!” And the wise Man says: “A wicked work changeth the heart: out of which four manner of things arise: good and evil, life and death; and the tongue is continually the ruler of them.”
Is there anything smaller, more insignificant, we might think, than a word? What harm can there be in a word, one little word? Ah, yes, great harm, unspeakable harm, may be in it!
Suppose you have spoken in anger only one harsh word; thereby you have offended one of your friends, companions. The mutual friendship between you is dead; a cold, hard feeling takes the place of the former love in your hearts; you no longer speak to each other, or even look at each other; and, where may it end? In hatred and enmity.
Or you have told an untruth, maybe it was a word of tale bearing; thereby you have disunited friends, sown discord among families and neighbours; it may end in deeds of blood and revenge.
Or it was a wicked, impure word, and thereby you have scandalized one of God’s little ones. The poor child, innocent heretofore, learns the sin from you; he tells others; and so the sin goes on farther, and God only knows where and when it will stop! You are the one that started the sin; you gave the scandal first; and to you must be applied the words of our Saviour: “Woe to him that giveth scandal!”
My little follower of Jesus, after considering all this, do you not think it is a duty for us to bridle our tongues? What does this mean, to bridle our tongues? It means: We must govern them, check them, and not let them always say just what they please, without thinking before whether what they want to say is good or bad, whether it may do harm or not.
You must not say: “I am too young, too little!” I know that you cannot carry out exactly the advice that The Following of Jesus gives us, “Fly as much as possible the tumult of men. If thou hast leave to speak, and it is expedient, speak those things that may edify.” You cannot lock yourself up at home for hours, to keep silence. You must go to school, and you must be in company often, with your brothers and sisters, and with other children; you must run about, and play, and enjoy yourself. I know all that. But, nevertheless, young and little as you may be, you must learn to bridle your tongue. What should you do, therefore? Here is a good rule; you can easily learn it by heart, and with a little earnest will and effort you can practise it:
If you would lead a life discreet,
Five things observe with care:
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak,
And what, and when, and where
Suppose you wanted to correct someone, a boy or a girl, for some fault, or, as it may be your duty to do, you want to tell your superior about it; then consider well beforehand what you will say, and how you will say it. There are times when it is forbidden to speak; there are places in which to speak unnecessarily would be irreverent. Let it be your rule: I will never speak in school during school hours, nor in church, unless I am asked something, and I ought to speak. Is this rule hard to keep? Not if you want to keep it.
And sometimes, when you long to go out into company, to pass your time in idle talking, you might, on purpose, stay home and in silence, and by good thoughts converse with Jesus.
“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man,” says St. James.
And Thomas à Kempis asks: “Why are we so fond of speaking and talking idly together, when we yet seldom return to silence without some wound to conscience? I would that many a time I had kept silence, and had not been in company.”