Mind Your Language
Growing up in the deep rural farming lands of Chivhu, I remember vividly how our elders always hushed us up with some air of mysticism when we walked through the forests as we gathered firewood or when we crossed the rivers walking through dark paths in the evening. They would always chide us for our loudness and endless chatter reminding us to honour and respect the unseen powers that resided in the forests and darkness that had power to steal our words and voices. Enveloped in childhood innocence and my natural African expressive nature I could never wrap my little mind around the cause for this constant rebuke. The instances that we defied this order to observe silence both my cousin and I received unforgettable pull-and-twist ear pinches ever so harshly that we would savour the vibrating heat and temporary deafness which lasted for what seemed like eternity. That managed to keep us silent for a while. When we arrived home we would be told stories of how people were made to disappear in the deep darkness for saying things that offended “those in the forests and the air” and how others lost their voices forever or lost their minds from foolish chatter. They would often remind us of Boreman the “village madman” who had lost his mind completely because he insulted the unseen in his drunken stupor one day as he walked home from a “ndari” drinking spree. What I could never understand was why the adults were allowed to continue with their conversations even though it was in hushed tones yet we were condemned to uphold total silence, a very hard sentence for the expressive bolts of energy that we were.
As years went by I began to realise that the grace to speak seemed to be easily granted us by the elders as we were now deemed to be “more responsible with our words.” Decades later I realise now that the expectation for responsible speech is placed on every mature adult who should be held accountable for the outcome of their words. It was later explained to us that the “silence sentence” was enforced on the children because they tend to be reckless with their speech and are not given to wise, discerning and appropriate words as occasion demands. Whilst the mystery of “the hidden powers in the dark” is still upheld and reverenced in different perceptions depending on culture and religious belief, I do realise now that the intangible atmosphere that surrounds us is not as simple as it may appear but holds in it the power to work with the spoken words that proceed from our mouths. With more exposure and deeper understanding of how the tangible world interacts with the intangible or unseen realm I now appreciate the power that words released can yield.
In analysing what makes up a wholesome speech, we should ask ourselves why it is necessary to have a wholesome tongue as a lifestyle and practiced virtue. Sometimes our upbringing and backgrounds lend us habitually to vile speech which becomes second nature because we have a misinformed concept of “freedom of speech.”
A wholesome tongue comes from a transformed mindset that embraces wholesome thinking which is considerate, sensitive and progressive. Wholesome speech yields in it the power to build and produce vitality and fruitful living for individuals, families, communities and nations. Unwholesome speech does not only refer to vulgarities and obscenities but poorly processed words that become can become daggers to the hearers. Some of the ravaging wars that have scarred the African continent regrettably come from speech that is not wholesome and the results are evidently destructive. Speech once it is released has the power to execute a creative or destructive mandate even when it was unintended because words cannot be taken back in the true sense of the expression. Corrupt speech if often characterised by underlying bitterness, anger and malice which have the potential to ruin healthy relationships, distance those who love us and destroy wholesome living. Very often we do not take time to self-introspect and analyse our speech and sometimes it is the quality of the company we surround ourselves with that can diminish or groom our speech.
It is incumbent upon all of us to conduct a regular self analysis of how the lives we are living could be as a result of the words that we release daily into the atmosphere of our homes and beyond which can either release blessing or come back as a deadly boomerang to haunt us and our posterity. Our speech is a verbal expression of our thoughts. What is your speech building and attracting today? Determine to restore the dignity of our nation and continent through the power of wholesome speech.