When I was starting primary school my parents taught me, no doubt with the best of intentions, the following rhyme...
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Of course we know that this is completely untrue as I'm sure we all remember being hurt by unkind words leveled at us over the years. On the other hand there will have been occasions... perhaps many... when we wished we could take back some thoughtless words which will have wounded someone else. But of course such words can't be taken back. Once said, they stay said!
The destructive capacity of the tongue is all too well illustrated by an incident in my life from almost 50 years ago.
THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
I was an Inspector with the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children and I had received a request to check on the well-being of a child in the Leith area of Edinburgh. The household consisted of a single mother in her 30's and her 7 year old daughter. And although I explained that I was there to offer help and support, the woman flew into an uncontrollable rage towards her child. For several minutes she ranted and raved, cursing and swearing at her as she stood there with her head bowed in abject misery. And then, slowly a tear began to run down her little cheek. What a pitiful, heart-breaking scene and a clear example of the destructive power of words, if ever there was one.
THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM
Although this is probably a rather extreme example, there's no doubt that the tongue has been responsible for incalculable suffering throughout human history. But is there an answer? Well, as every doctor knows, to form a correct treatment plan you must first make an accurate diagnosis. And with this in mind it's been said that...
The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart!
Or as the Bible puts it...
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
So what hope do we have in taming our tongues?Well, in my own strength this is impossible.But thankfully as a follower of Jesus I have the Holy Spirit living in my life and one of His objectives is to help me exercise self-control over my heart... and of course, my tongue!