Ask a Carmelite Sister…
Sins and Faults of the Tongue: To Speak or not to Speak – That is the Question
There is a lot of noise around me – constantly. So much chatter. It seems to me that conversations in general are getting more superficial. I’m reminded of the title of one Shakespeare’s plays. It seems to fit what I am trying to say – Much Ado about Nothing. What are your thoughts?
Ah! Much Ado About Nothing. Well said!
I hear a longing in your question – a longing for something deeper, restorative and spiritual. To fulfill this longing, we must all try, even though it is not so easy in today’s culture, to re-discover the healing power of silence. As Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”
Each one of my Carmelite Sisters, including myself, is required to make an eight-day silent retreat yearly. When we first entered Carmel, silence was difficult for us. It was new. Many of us spend our first eight-day retreat simply meditating with growing astonishment that anyone could even keep quiet for eight full days, and how were we ever going to get through it? Of course, throughout the years, we have all come to love it.
There are two kinds of silence – exterior and interior silence. Each complements the other. Each makes the other possible. Both bring you closer to God. We learn to keep still and quiet so that we may pray. It doesn’t take long to realize that the external silence, once achieved, reveals all those interior noises that converge within our minds. The Carmelite way is a way of profound prayer and we all find out soon enough that our interior thoughts can be very noisy. I’ve heard from people who had tried the hermit way of life, and left it because the silence uncovered so much of their interior noise. As they put it, it uncovered too much.
During one eight-day silent retreat, the retreat master, who happened to be Father Thomas Dubay, SM, spoke about the opposite of silence. He concentrated on speech, on WHAT we CHOOSE to say and WHEN we choose to say it.
I still have my notes from that memorable eight-day retreat. Each point was an eye-opener for me. You may find this helpful in your quest. So, here are my notes from conferences given by Father Dubay, who divided the topic into two sections:
- Obvious Sins of the Tongue
- Unrealized Faults of Speech
Obvious Sins of the Tongue – “In a multitude of words, sin is not lacking” (Proverbs 10:19).
- Detraction – speaking about another persons’ faults (faults that are true) without a good reason (Sirach 21).
- Calumny - which is speaking about a persons’ faults (faults that are not true).
- Bickering – speaking nasty or biting remarks
- Nagging – the constant complaining, scolding or urging about a fault even if it is true; to find fault constantly (Proverbs 21:9).
- Ego-centrism - constantly referring to what I did, what I said, etc. Constantly talking about ME
- Breaking confidences - for there are natural secrets that should not be spread; people have a right to their reputation (Proverbs 11:13)
- Dominating a conversation to prove a point – and most of the time we are unaware we are doing this.
- Salacious talks/jokes - which has to do with speaking impurely (Ephesians 5:3-4).
Unrealized Faults of Speech
- Talking can be a big waste of time – when the talking is empty and gossipy (Matt. 12:36)
- Neglecting the spiritual in our speaking with others - which is the main business of our lives (Ps. 25:15; Eph. 1: Col. 3:12; Eph. 5:18-20)
- Dissipation and draining of our psychic energies – leaving us fatigued, distracted, and unable to do our tasks at hand
- Bad example – to our family, friends, co-workers, but especially to our children
- Excessive comfort-seeking through words – which includes talking over and over again about one’s hurts
- Excusing ourselves – when we should not
- Vain discussions – when our time could be better spent (2 Tim. 2:16-17)
- Meddling in others’ affairs (2 Thess. 3:11-12)
How to Overcome Sins of the Tongue
- Daily prayer.
- Frequent Confession and Holy Communion.
- Pray for the grace to recognize all of the sins of the tongue — some are obvious, some are subtle.
- Pray for the grace to keep silent during discussion of a bad situation.
- Pray for the grace to keep silent during discussion of another person.
- Just keep silent.
RULE: NEVER pass on derogatory or uncomplimentary information about anyone, unless the Word of God has given you the specific authority and responsibility to do so, and the person you are informing likewise has responsibility in the situation and a need to know the information.
Of course, the reason we have times of silence is so that we may turn our conversation toward God. The silence we are speaking of is a prayerful, expectant waiting silence. Our world has too much noise in it today, and if we are really honest, each one of us could probably say that our hearts do also. When we do speak, let us be more attentive to what we say, why we are saying it, and how it affects others.
Thank you for your question and until next time,
Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.
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