The destructive force
The surf community is just that – a community – and this is partly why we love surfing so much. However, at every break, there are challenges to the unity of this community. The impact of over-development and crowded waves, the growth of localism. But I’ve never seen anything destroy a community like gossip. Our talk can build up or destroy a community and this is true everywhere.
James 3:2–7 tackles this big/small problem of the tongue, with clear lessons for you and me:
- Control the tongue and control everything else. It’s a big call to claim that one thing is the benchmark for everything else. But when you think of what has got you into the most trouble… is it not your speech? That includes both what you said and wish you hadn't, as well as what you should have said but didn’t. In surf coaching, it’s said that control of your basic bottom turn will result in every other turn being mastered. Learn to control your tongue and everything else is comparatively manageable.
- The tongue is small and big at the same time. See the three examples James gives of a tiny bit, a rudder, and a spark. Such small things end up making a huge impact on a large scale. They also have a delayed impact. It takes time for a ship to turn once the course is set, or for a fire to take hold once the match is lit. Likewise, your life course is set long-term by the impact of your speech. Your reputation is largely set by your language. You become what you speak!
- The tongue is a representation of your heart. Tackling this problem can’t just be a matter of trying harder to control your mouth. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”, (Luke 6:45). You see, it's not just a matter of the mouth, it's a matter of the heart. Have you ever said, “I didn’t mean to say that!” or in classic political style, “I misspoke”? When we speak badly, do our mouths betray us… or portray us? Your speech is something to pay attention to. It is data; it is revealing something deeper.
Next time you’re tempted to jump in and contribute to tearing down a person, catch yourself. Ask yourself, “What is this telling me about my heart?” and, even more importantly, “Is this the person I want to be? Is this the person God wants me to be?”