In medical term the tongue is a muscular organ in our mouth. It is an organ of taste since it has taste buds on its surface without which we would not be able to enjoy our food or discern between different flavours.
Apart from medical and dietary functions, the tongue has one important role in our lives. It enables us to speak. It can make or break relations or hearts, win friends or make enemies. Philosophically, lot of emphasis is placed on what and when something comes out of our mouths.
Many times we have heard of stories that establish physical injuries do heal. However when we hurt somebody by misusing this small piece of flesh in our mouth, the wounds run deep and will bleed longer or maybe forever.
A saying goes, “The tongue is only six inches long but it can kill a man six feet tall”. This is not in the least untrue. In our everyday lives, among our families and in social circles we never realise how much we hurt one another by misuse of our tongues.
People go in depression, attempt or commit suicides, lose their self-confidence, become victims of inferiority complex and develop other psychological ills just because of someone’s thoughtless remarks directed towards them.
Marriages break, families disintegrate, ill meaning remarks result in nasty disputes and violence. If we evaluate closer, we will find the tongue rather than the love of money is the root cause of many evils whether on family fronts or political and international grounds. Most people start their animosity against each other with war of words first.
Parents, sometimes, expect too much from their children. They do mean well. They want their children to excel in everything especially in their studies. When sometimes the kids fail to fulfil the parents’ expectation, for whatever reasons, the parents get frustrated. They don’t stop loving their child but may make some remarks to vent on their frustration which they seldom realise the impact it may make.
A child may be a sensitive person. Any careless or degrading remark may strip him/her of self-confidence, self-worth and the desire to do better in the future thus incalculating a defeatist mentality.
The above example is one of many within a family. There are many instances when total strangers make uncomplimentary comments about a person.
For instance in many societies, it is customary for a potential groom’s family members to visit the potential bride’s family to seek their consent for marriage proposal. In certain cases the girl comes under hard scrutiny. The members of would be groom’s family may examine her from every angle without realising her feelings of discomfort. She is being scrutinised like a commodity to be purchased as to whether it is worth buying or not.
In case the girl does not fulfil their expectations, they may make nasty comments about her looks, her complexion or anything to prove that she is not worthy of a future daughter-in-law.
Remember, a loose spoken word leaves an indelible mark upon one’s mind to the sensitive nature of our tongue. It is an important factor in determining success or failure of a person in his or her life endeavours and eventual life in the hereafter. Sometime it is better to keep quiet and let others think we are stupid than to speak and hurt others and prove our stupidity
A slip of the tongue is not the fault of the mind. So they say. Many may not accept that excuse. Therefore, a no true honest person is careless in the use of his/her tongue especially when it is going to affect other fellow human beings.
Only if we would weigh before we say, we would get rid of many social ills in our society.
Dr Arzmi Yaacob is a retired academic. He served ITM/UiTM from 1980-2013. He has written several articles in local newspapers, The Times of London and the defunct Asiaweek