Lying back in the dentist’s chair as my dental hygienist scraped my teeth (lovely mental image, huh?) I was struck by that familiar urge to reach into my mouth, detach my tongue, and stick it in my pocket where it would be out of the way of all the sharp, pokey things also in my mouth at that moment. I even asked her if she’d like me to do that. Which lead to a lively exchange about how nice it would be if we could actually do that. (I really like my dentist’s office!) Sherry the Hygienist and I proceeded to develop a line of detachable tongues in various colors, with pre-set piercings, maybe with extensions so you could have a “snakey” tongue or a long “Gene Simmons” style slurper. On and on. Hardly felt a thing.
But that took me on to more serious musings – of course. And I got thinking about a particular couple I used to meet with quite often in session. They had what some might call impulse control problems – I just say they had trouble controlling their tongues when they got angry with each other or their mutual kids. He’d say something, she’d fire something mean back, her kids or his would enter the fray, and before you knew it I’d get a call to help settle the dust.
I figure that if I could really develop that detachable tongue, I could make a fortune. (Well, OK. Sherry and I could share a fortune.) Think of the blessing it would be to be able to reach in your mouth and yank that flapping trouble-maker out for awhile. Even better, let’s ground your teenager’s tongue for a week instead of her cell phone privileges!
What is it about that little flap of muscle in our mouths that gets us in so much trouble? The Bible says that the tongue is a “sharpened razor,” a “deadly arrow.” The tongue is described as deceitful, smooth, perverse, lying, malicious, sly, stammering, and incomprehensible. In over ninety references, the Bible points out the power of the tongue, of which James says, “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.” Whew! Pretty strong words.
But think of some of the things you’ve popped out of your mouth that you wish you could have taken back or, better yet, not said at all. They really did burn.
But the same Book also says the tongue can be instructed, gentle, flattering, and healing. You’ve seen the effect of a mother’s soothing words on a crying child. You’ve felt your sweetheart’s words calm your fears and ease your sorrow. You’ve probably even been the giver of peace with your words.
So, what’s the difference between a malicious, cutting tongue and a gentle, healing tongue? Well, the heart behind it, of course. If you are actively loving your mate, your child, or your stepchild, you are almost certainly incapable of slicing them with your sharp tongue. If you have love and true caring for them in your heart, it will come out in your words. Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth begins in the heart.
But, you say, I love my mate. I love my kids. So why do I hurt them so?
(You’re not going to like my answer.)
Selfishness. If you continually find yourself saying things that hurt your family, then you are focusing on the wrong person. If you regularly have to clean up after harm you’ve cause to your loved ones, you are more interested in your own feelings, your own point of view, your own rights than those of your “loved ones.” You are falling into the trap of letting your own welfare distract you from taking care of theirs.
What an awful thing to say! (you say.) Yes, it is awful. Especially if it’s the truth.
Think about the last few times you’ve bitten into your dear ones’ hearts with your words. What was really behind it? Defending yourself? Protecting yourself? Keeping yourself from being stepped all over? Who were you more interested in? Your self. That’s selfishness.
Then who looks out for me? … to be continued …