Taming the tongue is daunting, a seemingly impossible task for those of us who are naturally wordy. Several years ago I found hope in Paula Huston’s book, The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life. Huston, a creative nonfiction teacher, National Endowment of the Arts Fellow and author of nine books, is obviously gifted with linguistic ability. She totally had me when she identified herself as a “babbling brook.” I devoured her chapter “Silence: the Way of the Cenobite” the way only a wordy girl desperate for healing would. If you can relate, I highly recommend it. Here’s a sample:
The truth was that I could not trust my tongue. For too many years, it had been my instrument of self aggrandizement; it had developed its own destructive habits, nearly impossible to break. I thought of how complicated my relationships had always seemed. How easy it was for me to wound and betray others without meaning to do so. I realized that behind almost every ruined relationship in my life lay words–words spoken in anger, in haste, in high and unthinking good spirits, in deception. I knew that if I were ever to become a simpler being, single-minded in my dealings with others, I would have to permanently curb my tongue.
Huston’s book, rich with quotes from the earliest Christians, describes the challenging journey to “a simple, more peaceful life.” In the chapter on silence, she notes: “In our new quiet, how much we’d endured from the audio assault came forcefully home to me. At the same time, that cacophonous clatter had been strangely reassuring, which was perhaps the real reason we hadn’t been able to give it up….Our noise was a natural by-product of our often-unexamined activity.”
Lent is a perfect time to begin or resume the examination of our own noise, both internal and external. I’m grateful for the reminder that the goal is worth pursuing.
This post is part of a series (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence). To receive new installments, you’re invited to “Follow SparrowFare via Email” by placing your email address in the box in the right sidebar (mobile users will find it below). We’d love to have you join us in sharing the quotes that speak to you.