A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
We know intuitively what effect our words have when they are spewed out with harshness, anger, or perversity. It is why we are so chagrined after we have let loose a string of hot-tempered accusations. We feel the indentation such words leave on us and those to whom they were directed.
On the other hand, we know how we and others respond to words of gentleness. Gentle words create a space of safety where we and others can open up our hearts and souls without fear of judgment.
Our words are so intimately connected with our emotions, that we find ourselves simply saying whatever is on our mind, whatever will communicate the feelings we are experiencing at the moment. We rarely acknowledge the influence of our words.
Imagine if we really believed that our words had the power to bring life and to break spirits. We would probably be more circumspect in our speech and might, at times, even refrain from speech altogether.
The early fathers and mothers of the desert urged their disciples to engage in the spiritual practice of silence. One of them even told a disciple that silence was the source of sinlessness, simply because if intentional silence precedes speech there is the chance that we will speak only those words that heal and raise others up.
The practice of silence is more than simply giving us time to choose our words carefully. When we are intentionally silent, we give the Holy One the opportunity to mold our soul. It is in the molding of our own soul that we learn how to quiet our overactive and reactive emotions.
In that space of divine peace and love, we are readied to utter words of creation and goodness. We are readied for gentle speech. We are readied to be the mouthpiece of God.
Gracious God, lead me to the inner space of quiet where your presence prepares my heart for speech.