Bridling the Tongue; Virtue or Vice?

Yesterday I attended Sunday School in my parent’s ward. I could tell right away that too much input from me might make for a controversial situation. I wanted to avoid creating a scene, so I decided to zone out. I made a couple of innocuous comments, but tried to avoid voicing anything that would make anyone really engage their brains. At the very end of the lesson, I came out of my self induced mental fog to hear the instructor quoting a list of requirements to live a moral life. It was repulsive to me. Every other item on the list was “bridle the tongue.” It seemed that the purpose of the list was solely to dissuade people from rocking the social boat. I considered asking where this list had come from and questioning its doctrinal validity, but decided against it. I bridled my tongue. And I deadened my brain. And I was angry at myself for it.

I pondered yesterday about the way I was trained to not be a problem, to disengage my brain, to make others comfortable. I did that for almost forty years of my life. I have made others comfortable, but destroyed my relationship and trust in myself. I’ve damaged my self respect because I have not lived honestly. I haven’t spoken when something needed to be said. Like a plant that allows other plants to steal its sunlight and water, I have withered and failed to reach my potential in a misguided effort to allow others to thrive. My Savior has encouraged me to find my voice and make a space for myself. Unfortunately, he spoke truly when he said that he was not come to bring peace on Earth, but a sword. It seems that whenever I assert myself, I get a lot of pushback.

I had another unfortunate incident with my relief society leadership. It involved another sister in the ward with severe depression. I made the mistake of trusting someone in the leadership to handle the situation with discretion. In the end confidences were violated and many people who should not have been involved became involved. I confronted the sister with an attempt to prevent a similar situation in the future, but she became upset and defensive. I learned what I should have already known by now. I can’t depend on support from the official leadership of the church when it comes to these sensitive mental health issues. Unfortunately, that means that we who suffer must suffer alone, or with limited and many times inadequate support.

Since this incident I have felt blocked in my writing. I have a potent fear of the power of my voice to create controversy, conflict, and discord. I have bridled my tongue. But is that what my master would have me do? He was the speaker of uncomfortable truth. He was the King of confronting and overcoming what others turned their faces away from. He spoke, he engaged, he reprimanded, and he shared his light. What would he say to me as I allow my fear to silence my voice? Would he say “Well done! The light makes others uncomfortable. Best to keep it safely hidden under the bushel.” I don’t think he would. So I’m giving my reins a little slack today. I am giving my tongue a little freedom. To testify of my Savior and remind myself that silence is not always a virtue. Sometimes it is a coward’s excuse. I can speak out without being responsible for the problems that my words reveal. I can forgive myself for making others uncomfortable because I am pleasing my Lord. He is Mighty to Save! Blessed be His name!

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