A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Minding Our Mouths

Posted on: November 27, 2014

I’m kind of a cautious driver—probably more cautious than other drivers might like. But I get frustrated when people cut me off, tailgate, or expect me to ignore stop signs. I don’t honk the horn or yell or make rude gestures in return, but I do complain in the car. And not always under my breath.

That’s something I’m trying to change.

Recently, my son and I were at a big-box shopping plaza on a Saturday when the driver behind me got upset that I was turning left and she would have to wait to turn right. She began honking her horn, and a couple of other drivers pulled around and made right turns in front of my car. Stressed out, I started to complain about their behaviour as though they could hear me.

My son wisely (if unhelpfully) commented that they couldn’t hear anything I was saying and that complaining wasn’t doing any good.

That day, I decided I wanted—and needed—to break this habit. Even if I struggled to stop complaining, I could at least keep the words in my head. Because sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, as Sirach 21:26* reminds us:

The mind of fools is in their mouth,

but the mouth of wise men is in their mind.

With my complaining habit, this verse hits home for me, but I’m sure it also strikes those who, like me, have done things like these in conversation:

  • vented to a friend about a mutual friend;
  • complained about the way their spouse carried out a household chore;
  • nagged their children to do their chores or homework without noticing or appreciating what they had done around the house or achieved in class; or
  • “spoken their mind,” to give their honest opinion—without considering how the people they’re talking to might feel.

Taming the tongue is a uphill battle, even for someone who’s motivated to set a better example for their children, whether little ones or teens. But for those who struggle with this as I do, I pray that God would help us keep our sharp criticism and complaints to ourselves and, when it’s necessary, open the door for us to discuss our concerns with kindness instead.

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD,

keep watch over the door of my lips!

~ Psalm 141:3

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)




Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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