Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
Look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet 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 exploits. James 3:4-5
Two encounters with teachers during my elementary and middle-school years left their mark. I’ve since lived them down, but I’m certain they set me back a good little bit those several decades ago.
When I was in third grade my teacher was known as being very strict. I think that actually meant that she never smiled. Her face was furrowed brow to harsh frown one of determined solemnity. Hers was a Bill Belichick demeanor. She may have thought of smiling had her class won the prize for best behaved (read: scared) class in the school. One day I told her about a book I had written.
I was in a book club and when finished the reader was prompted: “I will tell my teacher about this book.” Perhaps it was a marketing ploy, to get kids to recommend the book, teachers to assign the book, or at least request it be ordered for the school library. I was a failure at marketing. And she was a failure at encouragement. Her response to me: “What am I supposed to do about it?” I never told her about another book again. Nor did I receive much encouragement to read more books.
Another teacher once told me – when my name was not called to be assigned to a foreign language class in junior high school, “Well, I guess you’re just too dumb to take a foreign language.” Perhaps she was just having a bad day. But it certainly didn’t make my day any better. Like a dagger to my heart, I proved her correct when I tried to take Latin in 8th grade. I had no idea whatsoever why we were saying, “Amo, amas, amat…” I could figure out the “La lacunum est parve” (the pond is small), but the rest – not so much.
Compare that with words of encouragement I’ve received, “I believe you’d be a good pastor,” said a certain young woman to me when we were first dating. Little did she know that she would end up being a pastor’s wife! Just today I received a comment, “One of your best,” speaking of a recent blog post. Kind words of encouragement. Well spoken. Soothing to the soul.
The tongue of the wise brings healing. I’ve also been asked some challenging questions by wise persons. “God never does anything wrong, right?” My answer: “Right.” The repartee: “Well then why doesn’t everyone love him, honor him, respect him, believe in him?” Challenging words, but wise and healing to a soul that thought if I could just do everything right I’d be successful in handing some conflict in the church I was serving at that time.
There are others. A doctor who got in my face about a health issue. A seminary professor who thought I turned out OK at the end of my seminary education. “Why do you say that, Dr. Eggold?” “Well,” he said, “when you got here you looked like you really didn’t know what was going on.” Boy was he right – perhaps about the final comment, but for certain about his assessment of me when I first arrived at the seminary!
More than once I’ve wished I could take back words spoken rashly. Whether or not I intended to be hurtful, they were. So it goes. I hope these words bring some healing to you, and that you, dear reader, will seek to speak words of healing, grace, and truth.