Peck! Peck! Peck! is what I hear most every morning outside my office window. It is a sparrow that is able to see itself in the mirrored window. It probably is challenging its reflection thinking it to be another bird. One day a red tail hawk lit on the ledge outside one of the windows. As I watched, it too ruffled its feathers and strutted like it also was challenging its reflection.
What do you see in your mirror? What kind of person do you see each morning when you see your reflection? James challenges us as we look in the mirror to ask ourselves, “Do I see holiness, righteousness, and godliness in myself?” James says often one who does not try to practice the godly principles found in the Scripture is like a person, “Who looks at his natural face in the mirror and walks away, immediately forgetting what kind of person he was.”
In the context of this passage, James mentions only one character trait, the use of the tongue. “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives himself, this person’s religion is worthless.” This word “unbridled” means the tongue is out of control.
Gossip and slander: Probably everyone has been hurt at sometime by an uncontrolled tongue. Proverbs says, “A worthless person, a wicked person is the one who walks with a false mouth…who with perversity in his heart desires evil continually, who spreads conflict. He who spreads slander is a fool.” (Proverbs 6:12-18) Often this is an attempt to make oneself look good. It becomes a self-righteous act. By tearing down another person, one is unconsciously saying, “I would never do anything like that. I am better than that person.” “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” (Proverbs 20:19) This passage also highlights the importance of confidentiality. Those who can be trusted with sensitive information are hard to find.
Gossip and slander are false or exaggerated accusations maliciously discussed or circulated about a person with the intent to do harm. The attitude is, “If I feel this way about a person, whom I dislike, maybe I can convince others to feel the same.”
Andy Stanley, in his book, Like A Rock, has a chapter titled, “Character And Our Relationships.” A sub-title discussed is “Relationship With Self,” in which he shares this. “Character is a prerequisite for all other human relationships...If you are unhappy with yourself, you will find something to be unhappy about in those around you. Generally speaking, your spouse, your children, and close friends (even co-workers) will be the primary targets. When you are least happy about the state of your own character, you are quickest to find fault with others.”
Every morning as you look in the mirror to prepare your face for the day, do you think about, “Who am I going to destroy today,” or “What good character traits am I going to display before others?”
If you are one who has been wronged and your character has been the target of someone else’s “unbridled tongue,” what will be your response? Good character also involves the will to do what is right even when you have been hit and wounded. Someone has said, “The bruise that is left lingers on, it is not soon forgotten.” Which is easier, the urge to back away from those who have hurt you or to retaliate? As your own character traits continue to develop and grow, always try to do the right thing no matter the cost.