Finish the Phrase: If You Can’t Say Something Nice… – The Spiritual Combat, 24.
Posted by: EvangelicalDisciple
The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 24: Of the Way to Rule the Tongue (text at bottom)
…Then don’t say anything at all.
Our teacher is telling us to be quiet. The counsel flies in the face of our tendencies today, but let’s hear him out. If the goal is discourse with God and holiness, let’s see which serves these goals.
Talking or Praying: Talking to another may lead me to my goal, or it may lead me away from my goal. Praying leads me to my goal.
Talking: It may lead to gossip, slander, immorality, idleness, laziness, avoidance of actual duty, self-indulgence, self-praise, prideful speech, foulness, speaking in vain against God. If all of that is avoided, talking is good.
Praying and recollected meditation: it leads to discourse with God and holiness.
Our teacher is not against talking, he is against over-talking or mis-talking. Or, to put it another way: he is for the use of the mouth as God has given it to be used.
Overuse of anything can destroy it (listen to a song over and over and you will become disgusted with it). Misuse of anything can destroy it (put a plastic container in the oven at 400 for a little while and you will see). When we overuse or misuse our mouths, we may destroy our interior life with God.
The mouth is for communication; to let what is in the heart or mind out to be shared with another. If we use our mouths purely, we will deepen communion with others.
But even that is not enough for our teacher. He wants our minds and hearts to be always lifted to God. And so it is not enough that my mouth be used purely. It actually needs to be closed sometimes, even oftentimes, so that the mind and heart can be lifted to God. So he pushes us forward into the practice of silence. And when we do speak, let us speak of the glory of God!
PRACTICAL IDEAS – plan them and keep them:
one hour a day in blocked off silence. (also known as holy hour)
one morning a week in blocked off silence.
one day a month in blocked off silence. (also known as desert day)
one week a year in blocked off silence. (also known as retreat)
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Chapter 24 text:
It is very necessary that the tongue be well bridled and regulated because we are all much inclined to let it run on upon those things which are most pleasing to the senses.
Much speaking springs ordinarily from pride. We persuade ourselves that we know a great deal; we take delight in our own conceits, and endeavor by needless repetitions to impress them on the minds of others, that we may exercise a mastery over them, as though they needed instruction from us.
It is not possible to express in few words the many evils which arise from overmuch speaking.
Talkativeness is the mother of sloth, the sign of ignorance and folly, the door of slander the minister of falsehood, the destroyer of fervent devotion. A multitude of words adds strength to evil passions, by which again the tongue is the more easily led on to indiscreet talking.
Do not indulge in long conversations with those who are unwilling to hear you lest you weary them; nor with those who love to listen to you, lest you exceed the bounds of modesty.
Avoid loud and positive speaking, which is not only odious in itself, but is also a sign of presumption and vanity.
Never speak of thyself or thy doings, nor of thy kindred, except in case of absolute necessity, and then with all possible brevity and reserve. If others seem to speak overmuch of themselves, try to put a favorable construction upon their conduct; but do not imitate it, even though their words seem to tend to self-humiliation and self-accusation.
Speak as little as may be of your neighbor, or of anything concerning him, unless an occasion offers to say something in his praise.
Speak willingly of God, and especially of His love and goodness; but with fear and caution, lest even here you fall into error: rather take pleasure in listening while others speak of Him, treasuring up their words in the depth of your heart.
Let the sound of men’s voices strike only upon your ear; do you meanwhile lift up your heart to God; and if you must needs listen to their discourse in order to understand and reply to it, yet neglect not to cast your eye in thought to heaven, where God dwelleth, and contemplate His loftiness, as He ever beholds your vileness.
Consider well the things which your heart suggests to you before they pass on to your tongue; for you will perceive that many of them would be better suppressed. Nay, I can still farther assure you, that not a few even of those which you will then think it expedient to speak would be far better buried in silence; and so you will perceive, upon reflection, when the opportunity for speaking is past.
Silence is a strong fortress in the spiritual combat, and a sure pledge of victory.
Silence is the friend of him who distrusts himself and trusts in God; it is the guard of holy prayer, and a wonderful aid in the practice of virtue.
In order to acquire the practice of silence, consider frequently the great benefits which arise therefrom, and the evils and dangers of talkativeness. Love this virtue; and in order to acquire the habit of it, keep silence occasionally, even at times when you might lawfully speak, provided this be not to your own prejudice, or to that of others.
And you will be greatly helped to this by withdrawing from the society of men; for in the place of this, you will have the society of angels, saints, and of God Himself.
Lastly, remember the combat which you have in hand, that, seeing you have so much to do, you may the more willingly refrain from all superfluous words.
The Spiritual Combat text: here.
Chapter 25: To have victory, one needs interior tranquility