Unbearable Distress Caused by Slanderous Tongues
WHOLESOME speech can build up and encourage. An inspired proverb declares: “Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24) Honey tastes good and provides quick refreshment for the hungry person. Pleasant sayings can be just as refreshing to the physical organism, for they can put one in a happy frame of mind. When a person is cheerful, in good spirits, he usually stands straighter and moves with liveliness.
However, when individuals become the object of slanderous speech, this can result in unbearable distress for them. This was the experience of the psalmist. He prayed to be delivered from being brought to ruin by the lying tongues that were wagging against him. In Psalm 120:1, 2, we read: “To Jehovah I called in the distress of mine, and he proceeded to answer me. O Jehovah, do deliver my soul from false lips, from the tricky tongue.”
The lying words of the slanderers were like arrows shot from a warrior’s bow. Like burning coals, these lying words intensified the fire of contention and strife. But would such hurtful speech continue on indefinitely? No, the psalmist confidently looked forward to a day of reckoning, saying: “What will one give to you, and what will one add to you, O you tricky tongue? Sharpened arrows of a mighty man, along with burning coals of the broom trees.” (Ps. 120:3, 4) Since the psalmist had made his appeal to Jehovah, the Most High would be the one who would silence the slanderous tongues of the wicked. The slanderous tongue would bring calamity upon itself. It would be silenced by a warrior’s arrows and by God’s fiery judgment comparable to charcoal made from the wood of broom trees, which burns with intense heat.
Meanwhile the psalmist continued to sense keenly the distress of living among hateful peoples, comparing it to being an alien resident among the barbarians of Meshech and the fierce, nomadic tent dwellers of Kedar. “Woe to me,” he exclaims, “for I have resided as an alien in Meshech! I have tabernacled together with the tents of Kedar.”—Ps. 120:5.
Because he had already lived too long among the haters of peace, the psalmist longed for tranquillity. But the wicked simply would not permit him to have it. They were ever ready to pick a quarrel with him. The psalmist continues: “For too long a time my soul has tabernacled with the haters of peace. I stand for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”—Ps. 120:6, 7.
If we, like the psalmist, are for peace, we should bridle our tongues and not cause others distress by cutting, undermining speech. The Bible’s counsel is: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29) While having to put up with reproachful and lying speech from others, we can take comfort in the fact that Jehovah God will in due time set all things straight.