Today, I experienced one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I survived, but just barely. And I am certain that the moment will live on in my memory for decades to come.
As I write this, I am sitting in a dorm room at a camp for girls. Just in case you are considering becoming a camp counselor, I must warn you. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Or for anyone over the age of forty. The hours are long. The noise level, at times, will break the sound barrier. And sleep?
But honestly, I think I could live with the long hours and the noise and the lack of sleep. After all, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to serve as a counselor. But then, this afternoon came, and I am almost afraid to tell you what I saw, what I took part in.
But I’m going to tell you anyway.
Today, I watched a bunch of eight to twelve year-old girls practice their rifling skills. Yes, you read correctly. A bunch of rosey-cheeked, pigtailed little girls with BB guns in their hands, target shooting. And more than once, I had to do some fancy footwork as one of those girls accidentally swung her gun barrel in my direction like a quail-hunting vice president. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of, I’m telling you.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that an expert in the rifling field took the time to teach these girls gun safety, and how to handle guns correctly. It is a life skill every true Texan needs to have, after all. You never know when the bad guys are gonna ride up on their black horses with bandanas tied around their faces. If that happens, I won’t need to fear. I feel safe. My twelve-year-old daughter can protect me.
I’ve heard it said that guns are the most dangerous of all weapons. After all, they are easily accessible, and they can greatly injure or kill a person. And while I agree that guns are extremely dangerous, I know of one weapon that is even more accessible. In fact, everyone I know has one.
The weapon I’m thinking of has the potential to destroy lives. And yes, it has even killed people, or at least caused their deaths. To me, this weapon is more frightening than any gun, for I’ve been the victim of its power more than once. You probably have, too.
I’m talking about the tongue.
Our words have the power to give life, or to destroy lives. All too often, we use that power for evil instead of good. And while most of us would never dream of handling a gun without using the proper safety precautions, many of us aim our words carelessly, leaving a bleeding, broken path of victims in our wake.
Remember that saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? That’s wrong. Words hurt a lot worse than sticks or stones. And they take longer to heal, too.
But the great news is that the same power that can be used for evil can also be used for good. Words have the power to destroy, but they also have the power to build up, to encourage, to give life. We just have to learn to exercise a little “tongue safety.”
Easier said than done, I know. But if we try, we can all control our tongues better. We just need to remember that we carry a dangerous weapon. Before we speak, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Is what I’m going to say positive or negative? Do my words have the power to hurt someone? Am I building others up, or am I tearing them down?
If we can’t think of something kind and loving and encouraging to say, we really do need to put our tongues into safety mode, and remain silent. And though this is difficult at first, we’ll find that before long, our words are more positive. More loving. And before we know it, those lovely words will become a lovely habit.
Pretty soon, everyone around us will feel safe. And that’s a pretty good feeling.
James 3:5 – 6 “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire . . .”