Little Fire of Hell | UMC YoungPeople
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February 2012

Little Fire of Hell

By: Alexis Williams

Ever had a case of verbal diarrhea? Or word vomit? In other words, ever said something that you regretted the moment you said it or, even, as it was coming out?

I have been there recently. And it was only in my going there that I can began to realize how many other people were there - not just in the words that were spoken, but also in how the message was delivered. I have to wonder, what has happened to the way we speak to each other? I have to confess; nothing makes me crazier than a condescending or defensive tone…especially when it comes out of nowhere. (Of course, that is something I am guilty of doing ALL the time.) It’s that grating sound our vocal chords make the moment we assume someone is attacking us. I know, for me, the moment that tone escapes from my lips I am in trouble.

James tells us “The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6b) Pretty much, our mouth gets us in the trouble the fastest, and the first of all our body parts. How true is that? We verbally lash out more quickly than our filters can stop, and once the words have passed our lips they are forever in the universe. We tear away at the sacredness of each other through sarcasm, unkind words, and cruel tones. We allow our defenses to be triggered by innocent phrases, quick assumptions, and circumstances that have nothing to do with the current conversation. Even with our best intentions, we can find ourselves back into old habits of verbal abuse. So what to do?

I suppose I could sit here and give you a list most of us have heard, something about counting to ten before speaking, etc. We already know those steps and still it is far too easy to slip into the instant-revenge-mode that allows insults to slide over our tongues and into the world at 4G speeds. So what now? What is my brilliant solution? I have nothing brilliant to add. Really. I have nothing new to say that hasn’t already been said. I merely want to raise awareness about an epidemic of tart language I see spreading around.

For myself, the most important victory in the battle against the hell fire that is my tongue came in the words of a friend. See, my voice gets a bit high when I am defensive and condescending; and he chose the perfect moment to point that out to me. It’s an absolutely ridiculous practice of mine, and he made it clear just how insane it was. Because of him, I now know some of my triggers. I now recognize the moment I slip into do-some-harm mode. I still fail at stopping myself as much as I succeed, but I have successes.

So my grand advice, be aware. Watch for the moments when you feel the flip into soul-crushing mode. Paul tells us “to take every thought captive” and I know the same can be done for every word. Because really, life is too short to be filled with word vomit regret.

Discussion question: What triggers an instant ugly verbal response from you? How could you change that?

See more devotions from Alexis and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.