Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Three: St. Ambrose tells us to think before we speak

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Three: St. Ambrose tells us to think before we speak December 11, 2014

saint_ambrose_2Think before you speak

It’s easy to get carried away when we start talking, says St. John Chrysostom. We should remember how easy it is to sin by a careless word, and take care to consider what we’re about to say.

Bind up your words, so that they won’t run riot, and grow wanton, and gather up sins for themselves in too much talking. Confine them; hold them back within their own banks. An overflowing river quickly gathers mud.

Bind up your meaning, too. Don’t leave it slack and unchecked, or people will say of you, “There is no healing balsam, or oil, or bandage to apply” (Isaiah 1:6, Septuagint). Sobriety of mind has its reins that direct and guide it.

Put a door on your mouth, so you can shut it when you need to . Bar it care­fully, so that no one can provoke your voice to anger, and you end up giving insult for insult.

You’ve heard it read today, “Be angry, but sin not” (Psalm 4:4). Even though we get angry (which happens because of our nature, not because of our will), we should not speak one evil word, or we may fall into sin. Let there be a yoke and balance to your words—that is, humility and moderation—to keep your tongue subject to your mind. Hold it in check with a tight rein. Give it its own restraint to call it back to moderation. Let it speak words tried by the scales of justice, so that we shall have seriousness in our meaning, weight in our speech, and due measure in our words.

St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 1.12-13


Do I think before I speak?

Have I unintentionally offended or distressed someone today by a careless word?


Lord, let me sacrifice to you the service of my thoughts and my tongue. Purify my lips, and purify my heart.

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