One of the hardest things to control in life is not only what you say but how you say it. Once something is said, when it gets out into the open, there is no way to ‘un-say’ it. A person who learns to control their tongue is a person that has truly found maturity and will receive a host of spiritual blessings for doing so.
I was thinking this morning of an argument I had with my oldest sister a long time ago, an argument that escalated to the veritable brink of violence. (We did that all of the time, don’t worry!) This argument may have been the worst we were ever a part of, but it was not the fruit of the argument I was trying to recall, only the cause of it. What did I say to allow it to reach that point? Or was it something she said? We were shucking corn and neither of us was happy to have been assigned the task, and that alone was probably the catalyst for the trouble. It was only a matter of time before a button was pushed - and we were very good at doing so with each other.
The night before, she had a sleep-over with a group of her friends from the church. Young girls staying over at my house with my sister, and a younger brother that was as prone to mischief as myself proved to be the recipe for the hostilities I now recall from the corn incident the following day. It happened like this: we (my brother and I) snuck out of the room we shared and slipped out the front door, stealing around the side of the house in the grim moonlight. I seem to remember that it was in the early hours of the morning, around 1-2 AM or so. The room the girls were sleeping in had its own external door, and we grabbed the door-handle and shook it, banging violently on the door with our fists. Once we heard the screams inside, emanating from girls wary of intruders, we took off running as fast as we could, sneaking back in the front door with stealth that would make a Navy Seal proud, and scrambled secretly back to our room. All the while we were doing our utmost to conceal our laughter.
Due to the fear of the incurred wrath of our parents, we stayed in our room and feigned sleep in the excitement that followed, and boy, there was a lot of it that night. It is a small miracle that the police were not called to our house to investigate a suspected break-in attempt, but it was the 1970’s and 9-1-1 was not a viable phone number back in those days. Somehow we kept our silence the next morning, although we both felt exceedingly smug about it.
I remember very little about that day until the corn incident, and it was at some point I recollect ‘fessing up to my sister that it was my younger brother and me that had caused the alarm the night before. I had grown weary of her claims throughout the day that it was one of the boys from church (that she had a crush on) who had snuck over to play a prank on her and her friends. The only way I can describe it at that point is to simply state that ‘her countenance changed dramatically.’ A cute boy from church was one thing, but her own brothers whom she detested as all pre-teen girls do? Her face flashed (not flushed, I saw it!) red and her voice rose in fury in a manner very much like a teakettle, building into a high-pitched shriek. I should have kept my mouth shut from the beginning, or at the very least, ran when I had the chance. Her words came out in machine-gun staccato as she accused me of every wrong in her life that had ever been committed, which was bad enough - but then she said something that struck a chord deep inside of me. She implied that I executed the dirty deed because I liked a girl that was staying over the night before; and furthermore that it was my way of flirting with the girl.
Despite the truth to her words (after all, I did like the girl) there is no way a boy of twelve would ever admit nor would he allow someone to implicate him of ‘liking’ a girl. Any girl. Within moments our words, fueled by the unbridled passion of our tongues, had amplified into several well-aimed corn cobs flying at each other and worse, and it was my dad who was eventually forced to intervene and pull us apart. We were in trouble and it only grew worse from that point on. Mom was called in to arbitrate and in the end we were both found guilty and sentenced accordingly.
I’ve been in other arguments in my life where the failure of my mouth-control resulted in damaging my well-being in more than one area. I could have used other examples in this case. But my point is that sometimes it’s best to just shut up. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
There is a consequence involved in the things we do in our lives, both good and bad. But there is also a debt that must be paid when we allow our tongue to become unbridled and out of control. We will always end up eating the fruit of it.