How we are to govern the tongue

June 22, 2021 • 4 min

From The Spiritual Combat, page 95

Chapter XXIV.

How we are to govern the Tongue.

The tongue requires a strict guard over it, by reason of the propensity we have of discoursing of every thing agreeable to our senses. This is to be attributed to a certain pride, which inclines us to think ourselves more knowing than we really are; and, thus fond of our own conceptions, we utter them with great self-complacency, fancying we shine in conversation, and expect the whole company should be attentive to what we say.

It would be no easy task to number the evils arising from this detestable vice. In general, we may say it occasions much loss of time; is a certain sign of ignorance and folly, and is usually accompanied with calumny and lies;—that it cools the fervour of devotion, gives new strength to our disorderly passions, and accustoms the tongue to frivolous and idle discourse.

In order to correct it, I would advise as follows.

Never talk too much either to those who are little attentive to you, lest you tire them; or those who hear you with pleasure, lest you be insensibly led to say what is not proper.—Avoid talking loud or in a magisterial tone, both are ungrateful to the ear, and only betray much self-sufficiency and presumption.

Never discourse, of yourself, your kindred or what you have done, without an absolute necessity, and even then let it be in as few words as possible, and with great modesty.—If you meet with a person who is the subject of his own discourse, neither despise nor imitate him, though all he says should tend to discover his failings and cover him with confusion. Rarely speak of your neighbour or his affairs, unless an opportunity presents itself of saying something to his praise. Speak willingly of God and his immense charity for us: but lest you should not express yourself in a proper manner, rather listen to others on that subject, and treasure up what you hear.

As to what regards worldly discourse, if it reach your ears, at least let it not enter your heart. But if you are obliged to hear it, in order to give an answer, look up from time to time to Heaven, where reigns your God, and from whence that Divine Majesty condescends to behold even you, unworthy as you are. Weigh well what you intend to say, before it reaches your lips. Be very circumspect, for you will always find a great superfluity; and even when you have determined what to say, still retrench something of it, since in the end you will always perceive you have said too much.

Silence is of infinite service in the spiritual warfare; and they who observe it, may be assured of the victory. For generally speaking, it is accompanied with a diffidence of themselves and a confidence in God, a greater relish for prayer, and facility in virtuous exercises.

In order to engage you with a love of silence, consider the great advantages arising from it, and the numberless evils which spring from the contrary vice. Nay more: if you desire to accustom yourself to few words, hold your peace even when you may be allowed to speak; provided your silence be not prejudicial to yourself or others. Be sure to avoid all unprofitable discourse; prefer the company of God, his saints and angels, to that of men. In fine, if you are always mindful of the war you have undertaken, you will scarce find time to breathe, much less to throw away in frivolous and vain conversation.

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