Words, words, words, wrote the Bard once in what can only be described as a literal moment of dramatic irony. Small things, words, but they do pack a punch. I think we all know that words are powerful. As a writer, I resonate especially with that sentiment; as a Christian, I cannot help but confess its truth. After all,
In the deepest part of myself, I know this. I believe it. And yet, in the words–the wise and irrefutable words–of St. Paul: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
Time and time again, I find myself biting my tongue, wishing I’d done it sooner. I see the look on my son’s face. I weep at a friendship I may have ruined beyond repair. I sigh over the missed opportunity to use my words to build up a fellow suffering pilgrim. I know I do not use my words as I should. I don’t do what I want, and what I hate I do.
Which of course, in the words of my best friend, simply makes me human.
It’s a fair explanation, but not an excuse.
If we’re going to talk about words, here, then it’s worth pointing out that Jesus never minced them. In Matthew 12:37, He has some pretty choice ones: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” And St. James, the one I named my firstborn son for, he doesn’t tiptoe round it, either.
All joking aside, though, it’s a sobering thought. When I’ve got a pen in hand or I’m composing at a keyboard, I can usually muster the discipline to make it all come right, but when there’s nothing between my heart and the world but my capricious tongue, the words so often go awry.
That’s why this year, I am making one single resolution. It’s not about my food intake or my growing book list. Important as physical and intellectual health may be, I know my spiritual health is far more important, and the effects of its nurture or neglect will be infinitely longer lasting.
By this stage of life, I am not harboring delusions: I know I don’t have the power to correct this fault all on my own. Believe me, I’ve tried. This is going to take a work of God. Consequently, I plan to lift the cause of my tongue every day to Him in prayer, to be watchful and thoughtful as I try to learn what triggers it most to go off and to avoid those things as much as possible. I’ve also asked my sweet husband to help me by prompting me with a phrase or gesture whenever he hears my tone become harsh or my words err in a direction they shouldn’t.
The phrase we decided on? Speak life.
This is exactly what I hope to be doing more and more over the next twelve months. I anticipate it may mean my characteristically active tongue will be quieter than usual while I learn to better control it. Because I do find it far easier to simply put a lid on a thing altogether than to up and use it wisely. Hopefully, wise use will come with time and prayer and ever so much grace. Until then, I hope and I pray humbly with the Psalmist,