That Member, the Tongue

“By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)

rose34That member, the tongue, what a treacherous thing it is! And how many times it brings its owner into trouble! One writer has said that he who is able to bridle the tongue is a perfect man, and is able to govern the whole body (James 3:2). Solomon, the wise man of old, has said that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) A word fitly spoken, how good it is! It will heal a heart that is broken, and turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Kind words are like a fragrant odor that fills all the house. One person who habitually speaks kindly and considerately can soothe and quiet a household. And such words are not hard to give if the heart is in the right attitude. When one can feel and appreciate the joys and sorrows of others, the right words will come naturally. Unkind words are the fruits of selfishness. No one likes to be spoken to with harsh words, and if the golden rule is remembered and kept, none will be spoken to others. Consider the girl among your associates who is most universally liked and you will find her to be a girl who sympathizes with others and who is ever ready to speak a kind and encouraging word. There is no amount of brilliancy that can, in the affections of our friends, take the place of kindness of speech.

A girl is known by her words. Generally the first impression she makes upon strangers is made by her speech. Some remark falls upon their ears, and they form an opinion of the speaker founded upon the nature of that remark. If she is heard speaking considerately and sympathetically, they think of her as kind and agreeable; but if she is loud and boisterous in her speech, or if her remark is unkind and spiteful, they form the opposite opinion. Many girls have to overcome prejudice in the minds of others—prejudice which the girls have created against themselves by their own hasty speeches. It never pays to blurt out harsh or unkind speech, no matter how provoking the occasion may be.

To avoid speaking unkindly at any time, it is well to form habits of kindness. Betty had formed the habit of bidding Mother goodbye each morning and noon as she set off for school. This goodbye was spoken in the kindest of tones and with a note of tenderness that cheered her mother all the day. One morning a stranger was present as Betty set off, and as she passed out the door she called back in her usual way, “Goodbye, Mother.” Tears sprang up to the stranger’s eyes, and he said, “A girl like that is a treasure. You ought to be happy to have her speak so to you.” Betty’s little farewell, said without a thought, had wonderfully impressed the man.

The tongue is an unruly member, and until it is brought into control by the girl herself, it is ever liable to get her into trouble. If the old rule to “think twice before you speak once” can be remembered and obeyed, much trouble and heartache will be avoided. When all the efforts at controlling a girl’s tongue are made by parents and teachers instead of by the girl herself, it is like trying to stop a faucet by putting your hand over it. The pressure from within is so strong that ugly words will fly out in spite of these efforts. But when the girl undertakes the task herself, she is able to turn the pressure off so that the words flow smoothly. Not that it will be without struggle; but victory is ahead for every girl who will try.

Every girl should form the habit of speaking in a gentle tone. While she is young the vocal organs can be trained to give out soft tones. Who is it who does not admire a soft and tender tone in a woman’s voice? I have always felt sorry for older women who have from childhood spoken in a loud or harsh tone of voice, for it is practically impossible for them to do otherwise now. But girls can have gentle voices if they will.

No girl can afford to be impudent or saucy. One who is such sets a poor estimate upon herself. When a girl is saucy she shows a lack of respect for elders and superiors, and also a lack of respect for her own good name. Instead of sauciness sounding smart, and making a girl appear clever and independent, it shows her to be rude and egotistical. There is nothing lovely nor desirable about it, and if indulged in to any extent will spoil any girl.

Sauciness is more hateful because it begins at home. Where the girl should be her best she is her worst, for she is always more ugly to her own loved ones than to anyone else. She makes home miserable so far as her influence goes. Mother and Father may endeavor to be kind and just, but at the least reproof or counsel the mouth of the girl sends out a stinging retort that hurts cruelly. Saucy words cost too much in heartache and tears. They are not found in beautiful girlhood; for where the habit of sauciness is found, the beauty of girlhood is spoiled. Words can be like swords, cutting deep, not into the flesh but into the tender heart. The time will come, my young friend, when you will gaze upon the still form of one you loved and will regret with tears and sighs the harsh words you have spoken. Do not lay up for yourself sorrow for that time.

The tongue, ungoverned, leads into many wrong channels. By it unkind remarks are made of absent ones. Boasts and threats are uttered, evil suspicions spoken, trouble kindled, and hearts broken. Almost all the sorrow of the world can be traced back to the wrong use of the tongue. If you could learn the history of almost any neighborhood you would find that someone has suffered, some heart has been wounded or broken, by the gossiping tongue of a neighbor. Gossip of a certain kind is not really wrong. We are naturally interested in the doings of our friends, and like to talk their affairs over in a kind way. And it is one of the strongest curbs on evil doings to know that such will be soundly condemned by the neighbors. We should always be ready to condemn evil deeds. But when this gossip is mixed with a desire to wound or hurt another, or when the one who is talking is careless of the results of her speeches, gossip becomes sinful and mean. When gossip becomes backbiting, it is one of the worst of sins. How quickly we would condemn a man who should shoot another in the back, when only a short time before he had pretended to be a friend to him; and we despise a dog that nips our heel; and the girl who will talk about her acquaintances behind their backs and pretend friendship to their faces is just as mean. Any way we view it as evil. Speaking and backbiting are wrong and entirely unbecoming to beautiful girlhood.

The Apostle James has written a few verses upon the evils into which the tongue can lead us, and we shall do well to read them at this time: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”

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