I love this passage from The Hobbit at the beginning when Gandalf first tries to convince Bilbo to go on the adventure.
“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green.
But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out farther than the brim of his shady hat.”What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“All of them at once,” said Bilbo.
And a few minutes later after Bilbo rejects the idea of going on an adventure…
Good morning!’ he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this, he meant the conversation was at an end.
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”
I laughed a lot when I read that recently. But there is a lot of wisdom there because it reminds us of how remarkably difficult it is to say the right things in the right way.
When you stop and think for a second, you can get a little overwhelmed by all the pitfalls and trouble your tongue can get you into. Sometimes, your speech may not be malicious. But you still need wisdom because even the most simple and innocent statement can be interpreted wrong.
The hardest thing I will do in 2013 will be to try to control my tongue and use it wisely. Likely, it will be yours too. That is why James 3 is so relevant.
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
I usually feel like a failure in this area but am determined to keep trying. There is nothing easy about it. I don’t want to become a person so shallow that I avoid saying the hard things. We need to say the hard things. But saying the hard things is well, hard….
So, here’s hoping I improve in 2013. And when in doubt, here is a relevant quote from Les Miserables.
There are words that are better unheard, better unsaid.