A Full Mouth is not a Fool’s Mouth
Bananas helped save my relationship with my dad. I’ll explain why in a bit.
All the way through Scripture, there is great power placed in words. God’s words built our universe, gave the Israelites the Law, and are the words by which we will be judged (cf. Gen 1, Deut 11.18, Jn 12.48, etc.). Our own words will judge us (Matt 12.37; 15.18). This is not only about words of cursing but words of idleness (Matt 12.36). James tells us that if we are religious yet, we do not control out tongue, it makes our religion worthless (Jam 1.26).
Our words also make a difference in the lives of others. They can stir up or turn away wrath (Prov 15.1). We are commanded to use our words for the purpose of building up others (Eph 4.29). James says our tongues are like small fires that have the potential for burning acres of forests. Our tongues are as effective as a rudder turning a large ship or a bit in turning a powerful horse. This series of statements about the tongue lead James to proclaim, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jam 3.8).
So what can a person do about a tongue that is so deadly and dangerous? How can a man control the tongue and speak only thought out words of wisdom and purpose? James says that a man who can do this “is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (3.2). Scripture also gives us a few clues.
James ends this passage on the danger and power of the tongue by saying, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (3.13). Meekness is the key. Humility is the answer. Meekness of the tongue is often displayed in silence. James says earlier in the book that we should be “slow to speak” (1.19). Proverbs reveals, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Prov 21.23) and, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise” (17.28). Notice Peter tells women that they can win their husbands to the Lord and themselves “without a word” but rather by “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Pet 3.1). The answer oftentimes in Scripture is to hold our tongues for the sake of preserving our conduct.
So back to the banana. Whenever my dad would have need to reprimand me as a kid, he would often do all of the talking, none of the listening, and then offer ample punishments. At one point, either through the wise counsel of a friend or through the reading of a parenting book, my dad began bringing a banana to each of our “discussions.” Sometimes he would bring a bundle. He would then inquire about my behavior and thoughts, start peeling the banana and keep his mouth full while I talked. He learned the value of a “full mouth” keeping him from having a “fool’s mouth.” He learned the value of silence. This silence, which was quickly filled by my foolish mouth yammering about every thing I had done wrong and caused us to grow closer than we would have otherwise. He learned to listen, I learned I was heard, and our hearts grew closer. Silence proved more effective than anger.
And thanks to me, anyone with stock in Chiquita banana company became much richer