For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.
James 3:2 (NRSV)
Public speaking has been a big part of my life and vocation since I was a very young man. I have stood in front of many groups both big and small, and I have addressed a host of subjects with listeners.
When you step into the spotlight of the podium you are setting yourself up for scrutiny. Often the environment itself lends itself to critique. You as the speaker are alone, elevated before the crowd with bright lights shining directly on you. I have often quipped that when you stand up before a group of people you have an invisible target on you. You’re easy prey; The proverbial sitting duck. People will listen with critical ears, watch with critical eyes, tear apart your words, and question both your message and your motivations.
Even as I write this I am flooded with a host of memories. I regularly have complete strangers correct me, challenge me, and criticize me. And, quite often, they are correct. Wise King Solomon said, “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” The more you speak, the greater likelihood of staying something wrong, stupid, ignorant, or offensive.
And, that is James’ point in today’s chapter. For being such a small thing, the tongue can get me into all sorts of trouble. This morning I’m thinking about words. Words from the podium, words in blog posts, words in conversation, words in tweets, words to strangers, words with loved ones.
This morning I’m reminded of what James wrote back towards the beginning of his letter: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak….” Today, I endeavor, once again, to apply that simple principle.
(Have a nice day!)