Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. James 3: 3-5
These words are a caution to any who are in positions of influence. And, yes, the tongue is a force that can be as powerful as a ship’s rudder or the bridle on a horse. I would also suggest that the tweet on twitter or a post on Facebook would have the same power to affirm, to education, to inspire, or possibly bully or intimidate in unchecked ways.
I am more accustomed to Facebook. One can delete or re-edit a post if it seems inappropriate. But, the speed of the social media may not always guarantee that an inappropriate post gets read. So, what guards do we have to check our comments? Just how do we tame the tongue let alone the social media post and tweet?
A colleague on a minister’s preaching website: Homiletics Online, suggests three simple strategies that may be a way to “tame the tweet”, post and tongue.
Be slow. Be careful not to over react to what one has said, written, posted, or tweeted. Check the facts, but also prayerfully think of what was said and what may be the motivation for sharing what was posted. Yes, it could be inappropriate and may need to be confronted with fact checking. But, the advice to take it with caution and prayer is consistent with the caution that James makes in James 3 about the tongue.
Be teachable. I find this very helpful. Perhaps it is an open opportunity for one to question the one who makes a brash statement, post, or tweet. Ask respectfully with an inquiring desire to learn what thought is guiding the person who made the post, tweet, or comment. One may learn something. On the other hand, what one learns may be a word of caution to be respectful or careful of potential cyber bullying. If in the latter, then confront and find those who will intervene when such inappropriate comments are made.
Finally, be honest. Speak with honesty and wisdom as you and I may have learned in life. In the same way, James shares these words worth hearing: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (v. 17). When we speak out of that wisdom, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (v. 18).
Prayer: O God, help us to keep in check the words we speak, post, or tweet. Give us open hearts and minds to be slow, teachable and honest. Grant us the presence of Your Holy Spirit to guide us in following the example of Christ in all that we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Dr. John Duling