Hold Your Tongue

By Michael Temple

Photo by Dreamstime

“Hold your tongue!”  It sounds like a rote line from a “B” movie, but whenever I think about accomplishing this directive, it seems almost impossible. I intuitively understand that the quote’s author was implying something other than pinching the fleshy organ in my mouth between a thumb and forefinger.
 
I recognize that this command is suggesting that I stop talking about the topic at hand, but the struggle is real. With all the avenues of communication available to us today, it would seem that we are even more challenged as a society in the area of “tongue holding.” 
 
According to a fairly recent “Civility Poll,” 95 percent of Americans believe that civility is a problem, with 74 percent feeling that civility has declined in the past few years. And 70 percent of those polled said that incivility in America has risen to “crisis” levels. Not surprisingly, the majority of poll respondents cited politicians, the Internet/social media and the news media as the top three causes of incivility today. (1) 
 
If these polls are accurate (and they probably are), we’ve got real trouble on our hands. I can’t help but think that I’ve contributed to the verbal rancor that exists. I’m ashamed to admit that my strong opinions haven’t always been part of the solution, despite my best efforts to bring “truth” to those who clearly couldn’t see it.
 
I want to be heard, and I’ve often strayed into the ugly wasteland of making people hear me “roar,” regardless of the opinions that they hold. There have been times when I’ve even told myself, “If they could only see this for what it really is then they would understand.”
 
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”  (James 1:19-20, ESV).
 
I’ve been asking God to help me hold my tongue and open my ears more, as well as to seek to understand rather than to try so desperately to have my viewpoint understood. Real love and care for others allows differences of opinion without making it so pointedly angry and personal. The “high road” is not an easy road…but it’s the right one!

*Attributed to Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil DIscourse