The Life Which is Tainted by the Habit of Speaking Unkind Words Falls Short of Its Highest Mission.
THE LESSON—That the subtle practice of speaking carelessly concerning other people poisons many an otherwise worthy life.
The teacher who leads the child to cultivate the strictest care in his thoughts and in his words, as
"Marion Lawrance, whose influence permeates much of the work for the advancement of the Sunday School of today, uses a most striking illustration to show the baneful result of the use of words which harm those about whom they are spoken. Standing before his audience, he displays a rose in full bloom. Mr. Lawrance then deliberately destroys the beautiful flower by removing one daintily tinted leaf after another until only the bare stem remains and the delicate petals litter the floor and the speaker's table. During the process, the speaker explains that none but God could have made such a rose; it speaks of His love and His power, of His tenderness and of His care for His children. But any human hand can destroy it. So it is with that treasure which we call our good name—our reputation among men. Through the grace of God we may live so true that we deserve the respect and honor of our fellowmen; and yet, that good name, that reputation, may suffer irreparable injury at the hands of one who, through deliberate design or careless habit, speaks words concerning us which cause us to be misjudged or misunderstood. Says Samuel Butler:
"'The feeblest vermin can destroy
As sure as stoutest beasts of prey;
And only with their eyes and breath,
Infect and poison men to death.'
"Let us illustrate the point by placing on the paper a little landscape. [Draw Fig. 78 complete leaving the right half of the paper blank.] We have before us a great, wide river, a stream which forms an important channel of commerce. Each year, traffic is carried over its waters which amount to many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cities have grown up along its banks; in many ways it has been a wonderful blessing. Its silent waters flow on and on through the years, blessing generation after generation of men.
"But, as we turn from the big silent stream and wander through the woods our ears catch the sound of falling waters, and then we come suddenly upon a scene like this. [Draw the second landscape, completing Fig. 79.] It is a pretty little brook, you say. Yes, it is, but we smile as we compare the noisy little stream with the mighty silent river, and our minds dwell upon the fact that they are but reflections of life itself. Just as the little brook makes more noise than the big river, so do many people with small minds cause more agitation and trouble in a community than people whose lives are governed by the principles of charity, kindness and common sense.
"Let us watch, therefore, to see that our thoughts as well as our words are such as to add to the happiness of those about us. Calmness and carefulness will accomplish this. Let us guard well against the ill-spoken word, however harmless it may seem.
"Said one girl to another, 'Don't you think Julia is a splendid girl?'
"Oh, yes,' responded the other, 'but I have sometimes wondered whether or not she is always sincere in what she says.'
"How easy it is to attach a sting to an innocent remark! Our lightly-spoken words may blight the life of an innocent one, for words repeated are like the rolling snowball which grows larger as it is pushed over the fallen snow. As one dog, howling in the night, causes all the other dogs in town to howl, so we may start a needless alarm by a single unfair word.
"Let us praise the good, always, for none—not even ourselves—is perfect."