Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. - Proverbs 29:20.
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. - Proverbs 27:27-28.
In June of 2004, the Albany, New York firefighters made a mistake during a training exercise. The firefighters were practicing the use of the Jaws of Life and tore apart a minivan parked (by a customer) at the junk yard where the exercise was supposed to take place. However, it was just a three-year-old vehicle, a 2002 Dodge Caravan that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The firefighters should have used another older vehicle for the practice exercise. As a result, the city’s share of the bill for the destroyed minivan was $12,000.
Think of the shock of the owner of the minivan to discover that their vehicle had been torn apart and destroyed. Even though it was a mistake, and the firefighters were of course sorry, the damage had still been done. A year later it appears the owner may receive compensation for the mistake, but there was still damage that cannot be repaired.
Have you ever said something to someone that you wish that you had not said? I have. Have you ever attacked someone verbally and found out later that you were wrong? I have. My mouth at times seems to have a mind of its own and has spewed out words, which tore, I’m sure; at the heart of the person, I was attacking. The apostle James writes about the tongue, “Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things (James 3:3-5).”
The tongue can be a dangerous thing and can cause great damage if it is not under control. James goes on to say, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (James 3:10).” The tongue can be controlled.
The next time you are tempted to lash out verbally at someone remember the mistake of the firefighters. Remember that when you tear into someone with your tongue that you cause damage that is very difficult if not impossible to repair. However, if you do find out you have torn into someone by mistake - admit it. Tell them you are sorry and that you were wrong. It will not completely repair the damage, but it will help, and it is the responsible Christian thing to do.