Controlling Our Speech

by Catherine Doherty

Lent is the time to control our speech. To control speech is to recover its sacredness, to understand that sometimes the words of an innocent joke, spoken without thinking, can have disastrous results, can be the last straw that pushes a person into despair.

But our words can also be a witness. As Alexander Schmemann says in the book Great Lent (St. Vladimir Seminary Press), “a casual conversation across the desk with a colleague can do more for communicating a vision of life, an attitude toward other people or toward work, than formal preaching.

“It can sow the seeds of a question, of the possibility of a different approach to life, the desire to know more. We have no idea how, in fact, we constantly influence one another by our speech, by the very tonality of our personality.

“And ultimately men and women are converted to God, not because someone was able to give brilliant explanations, but because they saw in that person a light, joy, depth, seriousness, and love, which alone reveal the presence and the power of God in the world.”

As Matthew 12:36-37 says, we will be judged by our words.

Excerpted from Grace in Every Season, (2002) March 8, p. 78, available in a later edition from MH Publications