"For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue--a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not be so."--James 3:7-10
It ought not to be so, but how often do we do it? I'll answer for me: lots. Tons. Just mention the Bush family, wind me up, and watch me go. And it doesn't even have to be that removed from my immediate experience (although as a public radio reporter I had my fair share of face time with Governor Baby Brother Bush). The other night, I was in a foul mood showing up for our Faust cabaret auditions and I took it out on one of the writers, unnecessarily so. I later apologized for my bitchiness and all was well.
Words are extremely powerful. We can use them to inform, to entertain, to share, to build up, or to tear down. As a journalist, I know how charged and diffused some words are. Certainly, there were many times where what I said was being analyzed from those on the right and the left of the political spectrum to "figure out" what I was really saying. Where was my bias? Often times, they were sadly disappointed to come away not being able to claim (a charged word!) that I was either "fer 'em or agin 'em". Still, I was in public radio; hence I HAD to have a liberal bias. Whatever.
When I think of the words spoken by people in places of power and authority, I am always struck when they utter things that are best described as curses. Calling other nations, "evil", or those within a Church saying that those with whom they disagree are "unorthodox" are words that breed contempt for the "other". In the political setting, labeling a country or a people 'evil' can justify going to war. Within the Church, claiming that those who don't think like you do are "unorthodox" leads to splits and schism. Or war.
I find it interesting that we are reading these words of James during the week in which we started on Sunday with the story out of Mark in which the Pharisees and the scribes are up in arms because the disciples are eating without doing the ritual purification first. This leads Jesus to the teaching: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. If we constantly snipe at each other, what is that saying about what is inside of us? It's not what we have put in, but what has come back out. If what we have inside is anger, pride, prejudice, etc. than this is what will come out of our mouths. And our curses will, in all likelihood, come back to settle on us.
I'm far, far away from being able to say that I don't speak "curses". I wish I were more apt to utter blessings on people all the time. Maybe it will take a talking mule to knock that kind of sense into me! :) For now, I reflect on the wisdom of waiting to say something, and learn a better way of communicating that doesn't tear a person down, but rather builds them up.