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Taming the Tongue
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


“Wounds inflicted by the tongue are deeper than the wounds inflicted by the sword,” is an adage that we have often read and also experienced. These wounds cut deep into the heart and are not easily cured. Even after years, a person may feel their pain. At times, these wounds are caused inadvertently and at others in a planned and cold-blooded way. However, whatever be their nature, as human beings it is our foremost duty to make an all out effort to control the tongue.

Abusing and cursing others, making fun of them, lying, misreporting facts, backbiting, indulging in slander, swearing false oaths and bearing false witness, lustful chatting, bragging, enticing others to sin, speaking disrespectfully, expressing arrogance, gossiping, giving sweeping statements and being judgemental, teasing, flattering and even talking incessantly are some prominent areas where restraining and containing the tongue is required.

The first step to overcome such mistakes is to realize that they are mistakes. Realizing ones faults means that the job is half done. The other half requires a concerted and sustained effort.

The starting point after this realization is to plan before hand to hold back the tongue from its evil habits or letting it enter into a frenzied state; more often than not, this is due to some reaction that arises within us. Obviously, errors of the tongue can be classified in two categories.

Faults which are habitual and do not involve rage: like lying, backbiting and misreporting facts etc.

Errors which occur in rage, like abusing, screaming and shouting.

Habitual faults of the tongue need a concerted effort. They can only be overcome if a person makes up his mind to root them out by realizing that they are grave sins and not only besmear one’s inner-self but many a time cause hurt, deceit and damage to others. These faults are a shame to humankind and bring disrepute to it. We should first list all these faults and work out a plan to eradicate them one by one. We should pray to God to prod and remind us right before we commit a sin of the tongue and then give us the courage and strength to overcome it. Being reminded is essential because in mistakes made as a habit we often are not even aware of what we are doing. The next step is to apply brakes. Will power is needed to stop short of entering the highway that leads to excesses of the tongue. It may not work every time and it is not meant to work every time. We are not angels and neither can we ever be. There has to be some pilferage. We have to realize that we cannot be good all the time. However, we must try to be good most of the time. The first target is not humanly achievable; the second one is and it is to realize it that we should work for. A daily plan of self-accountability is needed for improved results. We must take time out every day to think over the sins we have committed with our tongues in the previous twenty four hours and then resolve to do better in the next twenty four hours.

Excesses of the tongue which occur in rage need prior planning as well. When overcome with rage, we need to delay our reaction. Merely deferring our response at that time can go a long way in reducing the harm caused. Taking a deep breath, taking a glass of water, changing one’s posture or location can help a lot. If our anger is caused by some person, we need should try to bring to mind the good qualities in that person. We can vent our rage by uttering whatever we have in mind in seclusion. Fasting helps to restrain rage and hence the misuse of the tongue. Even after adopting all these measures, it will still take time to overcome this habit and it will not go overnight. So during this time if one does lose ones temper and is not able to restrain his or her tongue, then one thing that should be persistently done is offering an unconditional apology to the aggrieved party.



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