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Rev. Andrew J. Demotses

As we all grew up, we often heard the words of this article’s title from our mothers. It was wise advice indeed! The tongue is probably responsible for more harm and hurt than any other part of the body. Although it is small and seemingly weak, it often causes incalculable devastation. It is for this reason that we need to heed our mothers’ advice before we speak.

Almost four decades ago, I was assigned to help another priest who had undergone surgery for the removal of throat polyps, and who had been told to remain silent for 6 weeks. With a large parish to serve this seemed impossible, but he understood that he had no other choice than to obey his surgeon’s order.

In the office, he would softly blow a whistle to call in his secretary and would use a note pad to write instructions or to ask questions and make requests. When people visited, he responded to them in writing. Finally, the process of recuperation ended, and he was again able to speak. As I was about to leave and take up a new assignment, we were able to chat about his experience.

His observations were revealing. “I don’t think I will ever raise my voice like I used to,” he told me. And when I asked him about his note writing he said, “I was surprised to see how many slips of paper with words written hastily or in anger and impatience I crumpled up and threw away before anyone could see them. Seeing my words kept me from saying many of them.

Whether we join in at the office coffee break, talk on the telephone, or converse with our friends, let us always be mindful of the admonition of Proverbs which counsels that “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking.” (10:19) If a juicy morsel of gossip or an unkind remark or observation comes to mind, let us ask God to help us see the harm it could do and to watch our words accordingly. Then we might more clearly reflect the words of St. Paul who wrote, “Let no corrupt message come out of your mouth.” (Ephesians 4:29).

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