Bishop Theophan the Recluse
The mouth of a
fool is his destruction (Prov. 18:7)
Evil speech is worse than all poisons. All other wounds may be healed, but the wound of the tongue has no cure. The tongue of the dragon is less evil than that of the whisperer, which in turn comes from a most evil demon: for it provokes quarrelling and bitter strife between brethren, sows evil and discord among the peaceful, scatters many communities. If you permit the whisperer to approach you, he will strip you of every merit you possess. Whosoever becomes involved with him has already become a confederate in his bloodshed, in his murders, and in his slayings! for a whisperer and a murderer spawn the same whelp: if they do not slay you with the sword, they will bring the same disaster on you with the tongue. (...)
Because of these things I charge you severely, that you separate yourself from a whisperer as speedily as you can. Let him be a monk, let him be an anchorite, let him be a champion of virtue or but a novice, whoever he is, as long as he is a whisperer, fly from him. Though he should be your own father, or your brother, if he is a whisperer keep far away from him. For it is better to dwell with a lion or with a lioness than with one who is a whisperer. And do not be ashamed to fly from him; so that he shall not infect you with the poison of his sin.
then, my sons, have no part in murmuring: do your work earnestly and in silence;
for he who is devoted to silence is close to God and His angels and dwells in
heaven. For the Lord tells us that:
He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his soul. (Prov. 13:3)
And then in the dayof our visitation He shall say to
us: "Blessed art thou, Israel," because you kept watch on your tongue;
"who is like to thee" (Deut,33:29)? May the Lord preserve you in His
grace and peace. A men.
Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of enclosure round about my lips. The greatest necessity of all is to control and curb our tongue. The mover of the tongue is the heart: what fills the heart is poured out through the tongue. And conversely, when feeling is poured out of the heart by the tongue, it becomes strengthened and firmly rooted in the heart. Therefore the tongue is one of the chief factors in building up our inner disposition.
Good feelings are silent. The feelings which seek expression in words are mostly egotistical, since they seek to express what flatters our self-love and can show us, as we imagine, in the best light. Loquacity mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher.
When you have to speak, before expressing what has entered your heart and letting it pass to your tongue, examine it carefully; and you will find many things that are better not let past your lips. Know moreover that many things, which it seems to you good to express, are much better left buried in the tomb of silence. Sometimes you will yourself realize this, immediately the conversation is over.
Silence is a great power in our unseen warfare and a sure hope of gaining victory. Silence is much beloved of him, who does not rely on himself but trusts in God alone. It is the guardian of holy prayer and a miraculous helper in the practice of virtues; it is also a sign of spiritual wisdom. St. Isaac says: "Guarding your tongue not only makes your mind rise to God, but also gives great hidden power to perform visible actions, done by the body. If silence is practiced with knowledge, it also brings enlightenment in hidden doing." In another place he praises it thus: "If you pile up on one side of the scales all the works demanded by ascetic life, and on the other side--silence, you will find that the latter outweighs the former. Many good counsels have been given us, but if a man embraces silence, to follow them will become superfluous." In yet another place he calls silence "the mystery of the life to come; whereas words are the instruments of this world"....It can be said in general that a man who keepeth silence is found wise and of good sense (Eccl. 20:5).
shall indicate to you the most direct and simple method to acquire the habit of
silence: undertake this practice, and the Practice itself will teach you how to
do it, and help you. To keep up your zeal in this work, reflect as often as you
can on the pernicious results of indiscriminate babbling and on the salutary
results of wise silence. When you come to taste the good fruit of silence, you
will no longer need lessons about it.
(Bishop Theophan the Recluse in Unseen Warfare; SVS Press, 1978)[OA/_private/oabot.htm]