By Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen
Mental energy, purposefully focused on the mental activity of ‘thinking’, gives rise to thought(s). There are also idle thoughts that arise when the mind, not at rest, aimlessly strays from one subject to another. Though abstract, thoughts represent condensed mental energy, and so, have inherent potential power for good or evil. Our Lord pinpoints how one may commit adultery at heart through one’s impure thoughts even while physically refraining from it.
Thoughts, crystallized and clothed, are ‘words’, and they TOO have immeasurable power both for good and for bad. A person’s mental caliber is revealed by the way he chooses words and uses them, orally or in writing, to convey his ideas. Words often convey more than we intend to convey. The late Pundit J. Nehru, therefore, cautions us to exercise care in our choice and economic use of words. For instance, we may bluntly tell a person: ‘Your action is unjust’. The same unpleasant idea may be alternatively stated in a milder form: ‘Your action denies me justice’. Another example: ‘You are a blatant liar’; or alternatively, ‘You don’t seem to tell the truth’. The word that comes out of mouth, or is written down without forethought and forwarded to another, is one’s MASTER, but the word that is thoughtfully held back is one’s SLAVE.
A pure thought-life is an essential prerequisite for judicious edifying speech. James, our Lord’s brother, admonishes us to be “quick to hear”, but “slow to speak” and “slow to anger”. The latter two, minimize, if not avoid, the prospect of blessing and cursing coming from the same mouth – blessing God the Father, and cursing brethren, made in the image and likeness of God. The blessings are brought to naught or nullified by the curses pronounced. The Psalmist amplifies it beautifully. “He loved to curse; let curses come on him! He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.” (Ps. 109:17). The same principle or idea is seen reiterated in 1 Pet. 3:10, “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.” It is important that we cultivate, for our own good, the habit of blessing all brethren in our interactions with them; when talking about them to others, and finally also, when praying for them. Blessing others in prayer is a sure source of endless divine blessings on ourselves.
Words are double-edged swords. They have power to ‘hurt and humiliate’ as well as to ‘heal and uplift’. King Solomon rightly points out that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21). That means, there are ‘death-dealing’ and ‘life-giving’ words. Scoffers indulge in the former, whereas men of discernment delight in the latter. Perverse speech stirs up strife, but judicious speech eliminates wrath. “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Prov. 16:24). Becoming ensnared by the sinful transgression of one’s lips is to be guarded against at all cost.
In Mt.12:36&37 our Lord clarifies and forewarns in precise unmistakable words as follows: “I tell you, on the day of Judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
In the End-times we live in, the world needs less heat and more light – i.e. less of the ‘heat’ of anger, revenge, retaliation, hate; and more of the ‘light’ of love, joy, peace and hope. Abraham Lincoln recounts how the loving words of his dying mother, “Be somebody, Abe!”, spurred him to be goal-oriented in life, struggle, suffer and sacrifice to find his way from a log cabin to the White House eventually. The great son of the American soil acknowledged later: “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Each of us has the irresistible indomitable power of his/her words to encourage or discourage, to uplift or downcast, to inspire or depress others. We owe it to the Almighty Father, to ourselves and to the rest of humanity that we exercise caution in the prudent choice and frugal use of our words in our daily interaction with others. TVOO
“They told me, ‘words are cheap’,
But words were all I had to spend,
And so I squandered compliments –
And won a friend.” (R. Schenley)