Be Quiet

Posted on 03.28.2012

As I have observed our beloved country for the past few years, I am grieving over how destructive our tongues can be. Have we not been warned about the tongue?

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:6-10).

I am guilty. So are you. We hurt each other with our tongues: “Reckless words pierce like a sword…” (Proverbs 12:18). We kill each other with our tongues: “The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21).

Do we really understand why verbal abuse is an offense that has been classified in context as domestic violence? Have we really thought about what we are doing? We can abuse someone without laying a pinkie finger on him. This phenomenon is occurring at home, at work, at school, on dates, on line, in churches, in bedrooms, late at night, on television, in movies, in music, in letters and on the playground. It never ends. This human problem has garnered my attention especially now since we are all experiencing it on a national level with regards to a recent tragic shooting in the news.

What I am struck by is how this small anatomical wonder, the tongue, can get us all wrapped up in situations and attitudes that none of us belong in. The mighty tongue can work us up into a chaotic frenzy that ultimately destroys. For example, our political name-calling is sickening and especially disturbing when we frivolously accuse each other of racism.

When I was a child, I remember when my now deceased father marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The focus on judging the character of a fellow human being seems to have been lost. Instead, it is less work for us to label each other without having evidence, and invoke ad hominem, without honest intellectual debate.

Can’t we just stop talking? Can’t we just pause and listen with both ears? Can’t we take a deep breath in, close our lips, and breathe out of our noses slowly? Can’t we use both eyes and look at the critical issues in our own lives and give attention to those matters? Can we pray a little more and remember what we claim is the most powerful Force of all (Love)? Can we just stop talking? Can’t we just use our amazing brains to think before we speak? Can’t we even keep our mouths closed for one sixty-second minute? Can we call for an honest search of our own hearts in order to remove the disease of hate and other unseemly characters that lie within (Psalm 139:23-24)?

Let’s just stop right now and pray for ourselves without talking. Let’s pray for each other without talking. Do it silently, everyday, every moment. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). For, when we can be silent no more and have pondered the destructive use of the human tongue, we can, then, speak to life:  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

Those who could care less about this discourse on the mighty tongue, be duly warned: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). In other words, your own tongue used for insult will eventually destroy you. It has a mind of its own, and it will own you. Better be careful. Better than that: Be quiet.

-Dr. Janice M. Stain, M.D.