“Know Thyself.” The ancient Greek proverb sets warring emotions into action inside of me. There are days when I pride myself in being aware of who I am, not only in the spiritual realm, but also in the practical, visible world. These are the times when I’m happy with myself, with my thoughts, deeds, and words. But underlying that pride is the realization that I really do know myself and the knowledge does not evoke anything approaching the “warm fuzzies”. At the core, I know the selfish, loud, arrogant me and I don’t always like that person very much. I don’t think you would either.
Tonight, I had to apologize for words I said earlier today. I have hinted before at my argumentative spirit, a trait which I successfully control much of the time, but which rears its ugly head periodically, almost as if to remind me that I’m not really as reformed as I want to believe. In the heat of an argument (one which I started myself), I made some statements which were personally derogatory, not of the man I was arguing with, but of someone else. I suffered through the afternoon with the weight of those words and finally responded late this evening to my conscience. Apologies made, fences mended, I’m still not sure all is right.
Words said and repented of may be apologized for, and even forgiven, but they can never be unsaid. The damage done, however eloquently the mea culpa is communicated, can never be undone. The words entered into the consciousness through the portal of the hearing ears and I can’t erase them. Like Pandora with her fabled box, the painful utterances have escaped, never to be recaptured.
I’ll recover; my relationship with the other person will likely remain strong, but I feel the need for something else. I’m not talking about penance; I understand and experience Grace and need no more. I think what I’m feeling is a sense of loss. Once I controlled those words in my head, but no longer. They escaped through my mouth to other ears, there to wreak their havoc, whether or not it was their intended purpose.
Consider the great seagoing ships…Their size and mass is tremendous, but they are controlled and steered by a tiny (comparatively) rudder. The captain stands at the helm and makes adjustments to that little rudder, and the ship goes where he wishes. That’s the way it is with the tongue. A tiny fraction of the total body’s mass, it too often controls the complete man. This example doesn’t come from my thoughts, but was written centuries ago by a man named James, who was Jesus’ brother. The tongue has throughout mankind’s history been the cause of innumerable quagmires, more difficult to escape by far than to instigate. He reminds us further that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. I concur.
“Know Thyself.” Tonight, I recognize who I am. My tongue fully in check, I stand contrite. I would like to believe that it will always be so. I know it will not.
However, like salve on an open wound, the rest of James’ advice aids the healing process. He tells me that the wisdom of heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. I know who I am, but I also know who I want to be.
I’m still breathing, so there’s still hope…
“One reason the dog is such a lovable creature is that his tail wags, not his tongue.”