What is a small member yet boasts of great exploits?
Of which is full of deadly poison, restless evil and is untameable? 

The tiny tongue.

Likened to a small rudder on a huge ship, the tongue does not have any mind of its own but is driven by a pilot, wherever he wants it to go. Similar to the pilot, our choice of words sparks life and moulds reality – build up or to tear down, to unify or to disunify, to praise or to curse.

Such is the gravity of our words that Jesus says, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment”. Jesus continues by saying, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned (Matt 12:36-37).” 

Here are four tips on taming our tongues in a heated moment:

1. Hold your Tongue Resist the urge to respond immediately when a family member, colleague or friend makes an insensitive remark. Pause. Let the statement dissipate over your head and into the silence. And do as Mother Teresa did, “Why not try first to hold your tongue? You know what you can do, but you do not know how much the other person can bear.” Hurtful words once spoken cannot be unsaid. Take care not to let an indecent word come out of your lips, for even if you do not speak with an evil intention, those who hear it may take it differently.

2. Grow in Humility For knowledge of God gives love, and knowledge of self gives humility. To which St Teresa of Calcutta adds,“If I am falsely accused, I may suffer, but deep down there is joy, because the correction is founded on reality, if even in the smallest way.” Through the way of St Teresa of Calcutta, her ability to meld suffering with tremendous humility is only possible for a soul that sees suffering as purgative, unitive and redemptive in the light of God’s plan.

3. Pray fervently Forgive those who hurt you and pray for them. We must continue to soothe the wounds of another with wine and oil, like the Good Samaritan who bandaged up the stranger’s wounds and personally took care of him. In his time on earth, Christ offered up prayers and entreaties, pouring out his life in libation (Heb 5:7). Even in his last moments on the cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. Do our words reconcile and mediate peace and love? Or do we cause strife and division? 

4. Meekness is the Answer As humility perfects us in respect to God, and meekness with respect to our neighbour. In addition, meekness checks inordinate movements of anger. Christ taught his disciples, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath, “For the natural character of men is such that, when treated with harshness, it becomes still more hardened, whereas mildness soon softens it.

Continues St Francis of Sales,

“If you desire to labour with fruit for the conversion of souls, it behooves you to mix the balm of gentleness with the strong wine of your zeal, to the end that the latter be not too ardent, but benign, pacific, long-suffering and full of compassion.

On the rare occasion when rebuke is necessary, St Alphonsus Liguori explains:

“If the rare occasion, when it is necessary to speak with some severity in order to make a grievous crime felt, we should always, at the conclusion of the rebuke, add some kind words. We must heal wounds, as the Samaritan did, with wine and oil. But as oil floats above all other liquors, so meekness should predominate in all our actions.


Building up God’s Kingdom
“If a man does not offend in word, he is a perfect man.” says St James.
Let our words serve then to build up God’s kingdom here on earth. Love in truth, is not an abstract notion but a concrete reality in living our lives as His disciples. Surely when our meekness and generousity extends beyond outward pretences – and is ingrained into the very fabric of our interior lives, we can proclaim praise as the sons of Korah did “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other (Ps 85:10).”


Image: Jackandphyl © All rights reserved. 

Shu Ming’s deepest desire is to be a saint. She believes that all of us are called to be saints – at the end of our lives. The life and writings of St John Paul II and St Therese have impacted her greatly. Ming delights in poetry, jazz, tea-making and deep conversations with friends.