Thoughts on what it means to be a traveler on the Way of Jesus the Christ
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Eat My Words (Respect #2)
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! ... With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? - James 3:5, 9-11
It burned... the thing I wanted to say. I could feel the words in my mouth and in my throat. They were explosive. I wanted to say them sharply so they would hurt, wound. I felt hurt and wounded and I wanted to do it back.
I screwed up my lips, grimacing.
How could I not say these words? It was actually fairly important in this small, intimate meeting to control what I was saying, to be attentive to my emotions, and to let kindness and honesty reign over my impulsive reptilian brain.
In a move that I have never done before, I scribbled the words I wanted to say on the corner of the piece of paper. Then I tore off that corner, crumpled it, and put it in my mouth. The other two people in the meeting stared.
One asked, "How did that taste?"
"Like eating my feelings," I mumbled around the dry paper that I was trying to coat with spit.
"Why did you do that?" asked the other.
"Because I needed to get it out," I said. "I wanted it out, but I didn't want it to hurt anyone else. So I got it out and then I put it back in and now it can come out another way."
I was still rolling the small ball in my mouth, moistening it. Finally, I swallowed it.
About four minutes later, I realized that I couldn't remember what I had written down unless I forced myself to think of it.
The thing that I had burned to say, that I was itching to say, that I desperately wanted to use to carve a groove, a scar in the other person... was forgotten when I literally swallowed it. If I force myself to remember the words, I remember why I was hurt and why I wanted to say them. But they weren't as important as trying to keep working with the people in that room. The brief thrill of oneupmanship that would have been achieved would have created so much more pain in the long run.
It was a dramatic move, but it actually taught me something that I didn't expect to learn.
Sometimes we live to eat our words, regretting our haste.
If we can learn to eat them first (before we say them), we can live.