If you have ever tried to become fluent in a language other than your native tongue you will appreciate the gift of facility in a language. You can easily come to the same conclusion if you have tried to ask or receive directions in a foreign tongue and not been able either to make yourself understood or understand what you were being told. We can communicate without words, but if the spoken word is our preferred means of communication, it is very difficult to do without it!

 

Isaiah, in the First Reading, speaks of the gift of a well-formed tongue. Indeed it is a gift, but how often do we abuse this gift? How often does gossip and even slander come forth from our mouth? How often do we curse and tear down the character of other people? Judging from the soap operas on the television, the things I have just mentioned would seem to be the major ‘traffic’ of our mouths. For our sakes, let us hope that soap operas are not indicative of our actual society!

 

Forming our speech is not just a matter of learning how to correctly pronounce the syllables of each word. What is far more important is learning to use the ability to speak well. This means learning to use the gift of speech in such a way that we build up one another and do not gossip or slander. It means learning to say ‘yes’, ‘no’, and all the things we want to communicate without interspersing our words with curses and swear words. It means learning to honor one another and to worship the Lord with the ideas of our hearts and minds that we translate into speech.

 

Sometimes this means unlearning bad habits that we may have formed over the years. I can remember the time I decided I had to do something about my speech many years ago. I had to decide to turn away from using swear words no matter how commonly used they may have been and begin to teach myself a new habit of saying what I meant and nothing more. It took me a while to change and I sometimes slip back into my old habit, however, I know that it is possible to change and I have experienced that it is worth the effort to speak like a man of God rather than an uncouth, and foul-mouthed animal.

 

In teaching my siblings and me manners, my mother often paraphrased Eph. 4:29. Regarding speech about others she would say: If you do not have something nice to say about something, then maybe you should say nothing at all!

 

How wholesome is the speech that comes forth from my mouth? How would I speak to people if I knew Jesus would be standing next to them? After all, He is!

 

Lord Jesus, help me to clean up my speech. Challenge me daily to build up the people around me and not just tear them down. Help me to seek to be positive about life and not fall into negative speech. Help me to speak clearly and concisely the words I want and need to say to convey my opinions.