Lesson Three: Taming the Tongue
“The Warring of the Tongue & Whispering with a Neighbor”
Scripture takes verbal aggression as seriously as physical aggression, and at times it can be more lethal and dreaded.
Verbal aggression is all speech used with the intent of harming another.
Scripture teaches about the 5 main types of verbal aggression:
- Cursing- calling upon a supernatural power to bring harm to someone else (Ex 21:17; 22:28; Lev 19:14)
- Reviling- insulting and throwing verbal abuse at another ( 1 Corin 5:11; 6:9-10)
- Guile- using deceitful and misleading words to cloak malicious intentions (Psa 10:7; 52:1-4; 101:5, 7; Romans 1:29-31; 1 Pet 2:1; 2:22-23; 3:9-10)
- Bearing false witness – testifying falsely in a court of law to another’s harm (Ex 20:16; Numbers 12:1-3, 8; James 4:11-12; 1 Pet 2:1)
“If we could root out slander from our families, work sites, and communities, our relationships with others would improve dramatically, and our lives would conform more closely to G-d’s plan”. – pg. 30, Taming the Tongue by Mark S. Kinzer
If we are not supposed to talk about others evil or incompetence, what are we to do? Forget about it and ignore? – asks the author
Correct view of this would be to rephrase the question- we need the right question in order to build on an answer.
“If slander is the wrong response to sin and incompetence in others, what is the right response?” – this is the better question to ask
The answer is found in: Matt 18: 15-17
The FORMAT for handling situations:
If your brother sins- go and show him in private- if he listens you have won your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take 1 or 2 more witnesses with you- still in private- so that by these witnesses every fact is confirmed. If he refuses to listen to everyone there in private- tell the spiritual leader- if he doesn’t listen then- tell the Gentile (which would be police, local authority- judges, etc.)- and if he still doesn’t listen- tell the tax collector.
Why are we told to do this in private? Because we are not to rally up the person where they become instantly angry and defensive. Not only this but we are to show the love of Messiah even in our judgements and accusations. Sometimes a rumor is false- something heard is false and we must all show grace and mercy to everyone in order to find the truth. (Gal 6:1)
Shut your ears
We are warned about speaking slander but also warned to shut our ears to it. Listening brings responsibility to the listener and now has brought you into the situation.
Listening is not a passive thing in the Torah. Listening is active. It is a verb.
An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pay attention to a destructive tongue – Prov 17:4
The type of conversations we listen to reveals the type of person we are.
How to shut our ears…
- Avoid the company of those who speak slander and/or refuse to get in the conversion to discuss the matter. Sometimes people want others to get in on the convo just to get a good debate started up…
“Do not argue about a matter which doesn’t concern you, nor sit with sinners when they judge a case.” (Sirach 11:9) – this means that sometimes we are just to MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS
Sometimes saying that you will go directly to the person they are speaking about will normally shut up the slander.
- Refuse to take heed of the info said from a slander.
This means to question the info. Don’t always give creed to the info said. Ask the slanderer- Did you see them do it? Maybe there are two sides of the story, etc. And then walk away. The point of this is to not say “Don’t believe everything you hear” because what the slanderer is saying may be true, but to walk away from it asking if the person speaking (slander) is more trustworthy than the person they are speaking about….
We are also urged to go directly to the person in question and ask them about the situation as well.
These methods are to protect everyone involved and also to get to the bottom/root of whatever the situation is- whether it is to clear up suspicion or to help that person overcome a sin or fault in their character.
Whispering with a neighbor – Gossip
Gossip always involves talking about people in a manner that is harmful in most ways. It may not produce outright charges of wrongdoing but it spins a web of info that binds a person’s name and subjects it to criticism and dishonor.
Examples: celebrity gossip shows- such and such cheated, or such and such got a nose job, or did you see so and so at shul today wearing that dress- she must be looking for attention, did you see so and so talking with that woman- isn’t he married….
Gossip heard diminishes the hears’ trust and esteem for those people. The Chofetz Chaim talks about this as a major downfall because the gossiper has now altered the way the hearer views the person from now on.
Paul in the New Testament talks about gossipers as those who also hang with the wrong crowd- gossipers are always found with other people who are cause strife, who are jealous, angry, and bad tempered, people who dispute a lot, slanderers, and those who are arrogant and cause disturbances among people. 2 Corin 12:20
Gossipers also tell people’s business without permission or the authority to do so. They become judge over a person by distributing info whether private or not about a person’s life that that person may not want to tell or get others involved with. Gossipers are called backstabbers and people who “talk about things not proper to mention” It is foolish communication, silly and serves no purpose to the hearer. It is not edifying anyone at all- only providing a string of information.
Proverbs talks about the gossiper as a person who reveals secrets and that they are worthy of reproach. (Prov 11:12-13):
He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent. He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.
The worst thing about a gossiper is the busybody. This person welcomes the information, forms opinions of the matter and then distributes it as truth. The busybody is the “know-it-all”.
Friendship & Trust
Of course all of this slander and gossip destroys friendships, marriages, people’s trust, etc. It also gives the person who gossips or slanders a bad rep as the person to be avoided. There is no unity when people gossip and slander. It always makes it hard for those needing council to be able to trust others when they have been slandered or gossiped against.