There is an ancient Hebrew proverb reminding us that: "The tongue has the power of life and death." Also, the third chapter of the New Testament book of James talks about our need to "tame our tongues."
When I read these questions, I thought of an experience from last week.
It was my day to run errands. By noon, I was hungry and stopped at a nearby restaurant. Soon, I was aware that the two women who were seated at the booth in back of me were loudly criticizing a young woman I know. The more they criticized, the more uncomfortable I felt.
On the way out, I stopped and introduced myself to the two women. "Oh, we know you. We read your column," they replied.
We chatted for a little while, and then I said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation, and I know the woman you mentioned. Are the things you said about her really true?"
It was their turn to be uncomfortable as they replied, "Oh no. We were just repeating what someone else said." Quickly I replied, "Oh, I'm glad they weren't true because she's a single mom who is having a hard time, and she needs encouragement."
I thought how criticism had been a part of my word arsenal until I met Lauren. During my junior year at a N.C. women's college, she arrived on campus at the beginning of the second semester. She was all that most of us wanted to be but weren't -- rich, beautiful, extremely bright with a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous and expensive clothes. Jealousy covered the campus like a blanket.
We didn't bully her but simply ignored her. Oh, we spoke to her in passing but never included her in our social groups or invited her to eat with us. It was only when she later tried to take her life that we understood how our jealous criticism had almost taken a life.
We made a 180-degree turn. She graduated the following year not only with the highest honors, but also a group of loyal friends who had finally learned to "tame their tongues."