Proverbs 21:23-24

The one who guards his mouth and his tongue
keeps his life from troubles.
A proud and arrogant person, whose name is “Scoffer,”
acts with overbearing pride.

I don’t know how much you know about logging. I don’t know a ton, but I do know more than the average city dweller. It’s really quite interesting, and it really is an art form. When you watch a logger fall a tree, you can see the experience and knowledge they have in doing so. You can watch them put a tree right on the ground in-between a couple of other trees. It’s quite amazing.

First they cut out a wedge in the face of the tree. This helps the tree fall in the right direction, and guides the tree down as it starts to fall. Then, once they have lined up that wedge how they want it, they go to the other side of the tree and start cutting a single cut in toward the top cut of the wedge they cut out. Often, not alway, but often (depending on how the tree is leaning) they will drive wedges in behind the saw. This helps keep the saw from binding up under the obviously tremendous weight of the tree. It also helps get the tree falling in the right direction. It’s quite amazing how there are times when you can cut a tree almost all the way through and it will stay standing. But, you put that wedge in, and drive it in. Then you might put in another and drive it in. Then maybe a third one. And driving these little plastic wedges into the cut of the tree will cause the tree to fall.

Oh how I wish people would learn to control their tongues. And no, I’m not talking about doing tricks with your tongue. I can roll my tongue with the best of them, flip it this way and that. And no, I can’t tie a cherry stem into a knot. What I’m talking about is people learning to control the words and thoughts that come out of their mouths.

Yes, we need to control the actual words the flow from our physical mouths. And that is a good starting point. We need to learn to control every single word that comes out of our mouths. We need to know that when words are coming out of our mouths, they’re not going to do damage to another person. This takes intention and discipline.

You have to think about what you’re saying. You can’t just blurt out whatever stupid words come into your mind. You have to run them all through the filter of how this is going to make someone feel. Every word has to be run through this filter. Because all it takes is one word and you can knock the tree down. With one word, one little wedge you can destroy the conversation and potentially end the relationship.

It didn’t happen all at once. Your harsh words cut through the relationship over time. Your inability to control your tongue was creating the trouble, cutting the wedge in the tree and determining which way the relationship would fall. Ever cutting phrase you said without thinking about it first, plunged the saw deeper through the base of your relationship. And, while you may be shocked that the last thing you said was what send the relationship tumbling down because it wasn’t that big of a deal…you had reached a point where it didn’t take much to push the tree over. With that one word, that one little wedge, you drove the relationship to death.

And don’t just think of your physical tongue as the only words you have to control.  Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media have greatly exacerbated the problem of a poor kept tongue. It has given courage to the timid. People say things on Facebook that they would never say in real life. People say things to other and about other people that they would never say to their face. In fact, the problem of the tongue has done nothing but increase in the age of social media. You have to be careful what you say, whether verbally or electronically.

If you were once standing in a forrest, but now find yourself in the midst of a clear cut, listen to the words your mouth speaks. Are they words that plant trees or do you hear the revving up of the chain saw and the pounding of the axe?

*No trees were harmed in the writing of this post.