Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
We all enjoy a good chat with friends, after all, there is nothing wrong in that is there? Of course not! But think for a moment, how often have you said something in haste and immediately wished you had not? Sadly, once they have leapt from your tongue the words cannot be recalled, the hornet’s nest has been disturbed, the damage done, for all words have an effect on the hearer in some way; whether they are words of sympathy or consolation or perhaps sarcasm, insulting or otherwise harmful. A period of reflection often leads to a more measured response. On this point Thomas Merton once wrote: “There are many declarations made only because we think other people are expecting us to make them. The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak. But we cannot bear the thought of that silence, lest it cost us the trust and respect of men.” Of course, this is not a new phenomenon for St Peter gave advice to the young churches in Asia Minor around 60 AD on just this point: Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit. 1 Peter 3:10.
As Christians we are called to love God and to love our neighbour. (Matthew 22:37-39) These are two sides of the same coin since our love of God must be evident from our actions towards and the way we speak to and about our neighbours. Does what we say reflect respect or disrespect for our fellow man? In what way do we reflect the values of God’s peace and love towards those we live or work with? And what more can we do to reflect those values?
So the question then is: which is more important to us, the respect of man or the love of God? What do you think?
Loving Father, I pray that you will teach me to guard my tongue and guide my words so that I may speak to and of my neighbour only with kindness, respect and love. Amen
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK