How to Govern One's Speech
[extracted from: The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli,
Nihil Obstat: Edward A. Cerney, S.S., Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Micheal J. Curley, D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore and Washington, 1945.]
How to Govern One's Speech
WE MUST GIVE careful attention to our speech because of our tendency to speak on anything that is attractive to our senses. This inclination is rooted in a certain pride. We think that we know a great deal about things and, fond of our own conceptions, we do not hesitate to communicate them to others. We think the entire assembly should be attentive to us.
One could not easily enumerate all the evil consequences arising from uncontrolled speech.
In general, we may say that it occasions much loss of time; it is a certain sign of ignorance and shallowness; it usually involves detractions and lies, and cools the fervor of devotion. It reinforces our disorderly passions, and establishes a habit of loose and idle talk.
As a method of correcting this, I would suggest the following. Do not talk too much! —either to those who do not readily listen to you, lest you bore them, or to those who enjoy hearing you, lest you be led into improper avenues of conversation.
Loud and dictatorial tones are not pleasing to the ear and only reveal your presumptuous ignorance.
One should speak of himself, of his accomplishments, of his relatives, only when compelled to do so. And then these should be discussed as briefly and modestly as possible. If you meet someone who talks only of himself, try to find a good reason to excuse him, but do not imitate him, though everything he says should serve only as an occasion for humiliation and self-accusation.
Speak willingly of God and His immense charity for us. But lest you fail to express yourself correctly, prefer to hear and treasure in your heart the words of others on this subject.
When worldly talk reaches your ears, do not let it touch your heart. If it is necessary for you to listen to it, to understand and comment on it, lift your heart to heaven. There reigns your God, and from thence that divine Majesty condescends to behold you, unworthy as you are. After you have decided what to say, eliminate some of it because, in the end, you will always discover that you have said too much.
Silence has a definite value in the spiritual warfare. Its observance is an assurance of victory. Generally speaking, it is accompanied by distrust of self and confidence in God, a greater desire for prayer, and facility in practicing virtue.
To arouse in yourself a love of silence consider the great advantages it offers and the numberless evils that spring from an unchecked loquacity. To become accustomed to infrequent speech, you should practice restraint even when you might be permitted to speak, unless this silence should be detrimental to yourself or to others.
Unprofitable discourse is to be avoided. The company of God, His saints and angels, is to be preferred to that of man.
If you really have in mind at all times the war you have undertaken, you will hardly find time to breathe, much less to throw your energy away in silly, inane conversations.