Thursday, March 10, 2011

St. James tells us in chapter 3:5-6, "In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how a small fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna." The tongue reflects what is on our heart. How many times have you wished you had not said something that proved to be very hurtful to someone else? I heard a wonderful story that illustrates this point vividly. There was a rabbi and his student who grew to be very close. The rabbi was very proud of his student because the student always was very prepared for his lessons, asked lots of questions and seemed to be learning everything he could about his religion. The rabbi had been teaching for a long time and he was very methodical about his process. The student was very anxious and wanted to move faster, be done and get out into the world. No matter what the rabbi did to try to persuade his student to slow down and really develop his relationship with God, the student constantly challenged the rabbi. One day the student was visiting with other students and he began to talk about his rabbi in a negative way. He shared with his fellow students that he felt the rabbi had lost his touch and should retire. He further added that he felt the rabbi might be losing his mind. This gossip spread like a wild fire. Soon everyone in the town was talking about the rabbi and how he was losing his mind. Some began to wonder if the rabbi might need to be removed from his position of authority. The rabbi was naturally very hurt when he heard this talk. His heart was pierced even deeper when he discovered that his student had been the source of this vile gossip. When the student visited with the rabbi soon after, the student noticed that their entire relationship had changed. The student sensed that there was something very wrong and approached the rabbi to inquire about it. The rabbi confronted the student with the gossip and the student admitted that he had in fact started the rumor but he was very sorry. He asked the rabbi what he could do to repair the relationship. He told the rabbi that he wanted it to go back to the way it was between the two of them. The rabbi said that the student should go and get a pillow filled with feathers. The student did so and returned to the rabbi with the pillow. The rabbi took the student up to the top of the town tower and he cut the pillow open. He then let all of the feathers fly and they spread out all over the town. The rabbi turned to the student and said "Now go and gather all of the feathers. If you can find each one and put it back in the pillow, all will be fine." The student soon realized that this was impossible. The rabbi said that returning the relationship to the same status as prior to the gossip was just as impossible. He said, "We will never have the same relationship. It may be better or it may be worse but it will never be the same." Before you make that first statement about someone else, think about the implications. Once you cut the pillow and spread the feathers, you will not be able to put them back in. Your tongue is very powerful. It can, as St. James points out, provide the small spark that starts the large, roaring fire. Being slow to speak will always serve you well.