The Faithful Man is Holy and Humble in Conversation

Two swtanding men speaking to each other

deeper than censorship

Scripture is abundant with admonitions to guard our tongue but perhaps the most sobering admonition comes in the Epistle of James:

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, 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 humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.” (James 3:1-12 RSV CE)

Oh the tongue! I cannot remember a confession that did not include something related to the tongue. We might like to imagine that “sins of the tongue” are more of a female struggle. Sins of the tongue may look different for men and women, but that does make them any less of a struggle. How many times do we needlessly put down a brother, either behind their back or in front of others? Do we do it to stroke our own egos and make ourselves look better? Or how many times have we lost our temper and spouted out “fire” (as St. James put it)? Or told a dirty or off-color joke? Or taken the Lord’s name in vain or threw in a cuss/swear word in inappropriately? Or how many times have we failed to acknowledge the dignity of another person in our conversation, seeking only to get what we want out of someone? Finally, how many times has pride taken over and we have embellished the truth or outright lied to make ourselves look better?

Squad conversations may tend towards talking about cussing/swearing. You can start there and use that to launch them deeper, but we want to go beyond censoring particular words. Why did they use a cuss word? Perhaps they didn’t think twice about it. Or did they want to seem more manly or cooler to their friends. Are there appropriate times when men can drop a cuss word in the company of other men? Should there be standards of how we talk as men when women aren’t around? Are there certain ways we shouldn’t talk around women? Much of this conversation will depend on the age and maturity of your Squad, but it ought to bring you to discuss the application of the virtue of prudence.

Another possible direction that you could go is more along the lines of that in the clip and provided King’s Message: how we engage others in conversation. Do we always need to be like “Good Sam” and engage in a conversation that will take some time? Must we always be interested in getting to know the other person? How do we know when it is appropriate and when it is not?

The Squad Time questions also lend themselves to looking not only at our speech, but at the source of our speech. Corrupt communication comes from a corrupt heart. This leads to the Challenge for these weeks leading up to Lent – the beginning of the practice of an examination of conscience. Hopefully this is where we can get to the heart, our humility and holiness – how we see and speak to others – and not just which words we use in sentences.

From the spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales:

Moreover, when there is nothing to stir your  wrath, lay up a store of meekness and kindliness, speaking and acting in things great and small as gently as possible. Remember that the Bride of the Canticles is described as not merely dropping honey, and milk also, from her lips, but as having it “under her tongue;” 82 that is to say, in her heart. So we must not only speak gently to our neighbour, but we must be filled, heart and soul, with gentleness; and we must not merely seek the sweetness of aromatic honey in courtesy and suavity with strangers, but also the sweetness of milk among those of our own household and our neighbours; a sweetness terribly lacking to some who are as angels abroad and devils at home!

Catechism 1853: Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.” But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.

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