Six Practical Means to Overcome Sins and Faults of the Tongue

Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Sins and Faults of the Tongue: To Speak or not to Speak – That is the Question

Dear Sister,

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?

Dear Friend,

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:

  1. Obvious Sins of the Tongue
  2. 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 pointand 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

  1. Daily prayer.
  2. Frequent Confession and Holy Communion.
  3. Pray for the grace to recognize all of the sins of the tongue — some are obvious, some are subtle.
  4. Pray for the grace to keep silent during discussion of a bad situation.
  5. Pray for the grace to keep silent during discussion of another person.
  6. 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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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

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3 Comments

  1. As if I could add anything to what Fr. Dubay has to say – but another point comes with ‘complaining’ (perhaps a dimension of comfort-seeking). Too often, I hear or am myself guilty of complaining about a situation to anyone and everyone who would listen.

    During confession, a good priest asked me to reflect on if I was talking to someone who could actually solve the problem. If I was, temper my words so as not to be ‘too whiny’ but just describe the problem and seek a solution together. BUT, if I wasn’t (and I usually wasn’t) stop. I was told to reserve my comments only to one who could actually solve the problem (i.e. a boss, the committee chair, the teacher) and no one else (another parent, employee, etc.). It is hard work but I’m getting there!

    I do this in our family as well – complaints come only to The Complaint Dept. – Mom and Dad. It does no good to complain about your chores or homework to your siblings as they can’t solve the problem. Complaining just brings a dark cloud in the house.

  2. I love the response of Rachal W. October 26! The guarding of my tongue is a virtue I desire, but which I sadly lack. Even when I’m aware of it in a situation, I sometimes hear myself contributing. I must take this awakened-awareness most seriouly and watch the temptations that abound. Pray for me.

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