"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, withersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tames, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."
I have struggled with my words ever since the sixth grade. I'll try to explain why that was when it happened. Up until that point, I could get away with being awkward and weird, largely because I was ignorant to the fact that I didn't fit in, but also because no one cared about cool or not cool at New Castle Elementary. When I got to Kempslanding, however, I began to realize that I wasn't popular or outstanding in any good kind of way. But I was still a weirdo. Well, I didn't want to be alienated, but I couldn't pass for particularly strong, athletic, or even smart in that sea of scholars, so I decided I had some conforming to do. One of the ways that I sought acceptance was with my words. It was cool to curse, and by the end of my first year at that school, if coolness was calculated by curses per sentence, I was the coolest kid in Kempslanding.
What an enormous toll that took on me. The three years that I spent at that school truly tried my faith. I didn't live for the God I worshiped in the Sunday services. It took a few summers at the WILDS (a Christian camp in South Carolina) and years of accumulated guilt to lead me to change my ways (or words, rather). Sometime during my eighth grade year, or maybe before it, I decided I was done with foul language, so I quit cold turkey one day. And now I'm the best Christian ever, right?
James doesn't say that he who doesn't curse is a perfect. He says that "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." I'm sure every person reading this knows that I come far from meeting that criteria. Last year, I looked a friend of mine in the eye and told her to cry. And she did. She had been having a bad day, and though I had been kidding, I brought tears to that poor girl's eyes. Now that's setting a good, Christian example. When you've earned yourself the label of the "Christian kid," your reputation is important. I've made mistakes with more than just words that I've payed for when confronted by people who challenge my beliefs. Your light begins to cast a pretty big shadow, when you're given a laundry list of your sins in front of someone to whom you've been trying to witness.
Long story short, the tongue truly does rule the whole body. Your words reflect your heart, and they also affect the way others view you and your God.