July 9, 2013
Today the inimitable Msgr. Charles Pope has an excellent post all of us can benefit from. Lord, Keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth: Reflections on Common Sins of Speech will have many readers squirming. We don’t hear often from the pulpit about the pitfalls of the wagging tongue, but we should because we all fail to exercise the degree of discretion we ought when it comes to our speech. St. James wrote quite a bit about this in his epistle in the New Testament, and the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament contains multiple cautions against evil speech.
Convents and monasteries have good reasons to limit speaking freely to hours set for recreation, and allowing only talk that is necessary to perform duties at other times. Sins of speech where people live in close quarters behind cloister walls can poison an entire community. Perhaps family life might be calmer in some homes if parents instituted something similar to eradicate the undercurrent of maliciousness in communication that is a hallmark of sibling rivalry or of a weakening relationship between Mom and Dad.
The work place is a more difficult challenge but not impossible when it comes to guarding one’s tongue, this because many people today aren’t concerned with the things of God and are in full pursuit of fleshly desires. If we become known as someone who speaks when necessary, says the truth to another in a way that is constructive, and encourages others rather than tearing them down we will have accomplished a great deal towards bringing peace to what is often a pit of complaints, double dealing, laziness, and outright spite.
The Golden Key
This is my name for a skill that once mastered can change an atmosphere for the better through the kind use of the tongue. Kindness (benignity) is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. Used in place of the list of sins of the tongue in Msgr. Pope’s article, not only do we grow in virtue, but we are a source of peace and joy to others. Best of all, it is a way of living the Gospel without preaching.
The Golden Key is very simple to employ. It is a habit we can form without much trouble that can change us and the people around us for the better. Where sins of the tongue tear down relationships, the Golden Key builds them up. Anyone can practice this virtue beginning now. The only prerequisite is absolute genuineness. Here’s how:
- Greet the people you work or live with with a smile and call them by name. Even if you’re whizzing by on your way to running an errand or doing a task, acknowledging another person by name could be the only positive thing a person has experienced that day. “Good morning, Emily,” or “How goes it, Bill,” seems as nothing to we who say it, but when we become a reliable source of simple positive recognition genuinely from our hearts something happens in another’s heart: trust.
- Some of us grew up in super-critical households and have a bad habit of finding only the motes in our brothers’ eyes. The Golden Key changes that. Concerning the people you work or live with, find one positive thing to say about another’s work, skill, or deed every day and say it. Tell others what you admire about them. “Jim, I admire your tenaciousness in solving this problem.” “Beth, you’re doing great on putting your toys away when you’re finished playing.” If you are a boss, spend as much time building on employees’ strengths as pointing out flaws and offering suggestions for improvement. If you are a coworker or team member, express appreciation towards fellow members.
- Thank others and mean it. When appropriate, mention how what someone has done has helped you. Never mind that it may be the person’s responsibility, the fact that you noticed and commented may bring someone out of a state of discouragement.
- Look for opportunities to listen to others’ ideas when solving problems. Ask for opinions and ideas. Listening is a very powerful non-verbal communication that acknowledges another person as a human being.
- Speak the truth with charity. This means banishing rash judgment and preconceived ideas and instead genuinely working toward understanding of another without sugar coating errors.
The Golden Key is available to everyone. We can either pick it up or pass it by without a glance. If we pick it up and use it, instead of spending time sinning with our tongues, we will be spending time building up the Body of Christ or bringing others to Christ.
The natural outcome of using The Golden Key is the building of trust with others. When people can trust us with small things, it’s only a matter of time before they trust us with bigger things. The biggest thing of all is advancing towards eternal life. For many of us, the Golden Key is a sure tool for evangelization.
One final note: not everyone will respond positively towards kind treatment. For whatever reason we can be rejected. We must not let that stop us when we are living our Christian witness in this way. Let no one stifle the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
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This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.
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