Maxine, the church gossip and self-appointed authority of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose in the other members’ private lives. Church members couldn’t stand her activities, but feared her enough to keep their silence.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member of the church, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.

She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing.

George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away. He didn’t explain, defend or deny; he said nothing.

Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Maxine’s house — and left it there all night!

Have you noticed there are those who believe themselves to be morally superior to those around them? They tend to look down their noses at others who are not as “perfect” as they are themselves.

Behind this sense of moral superiority is often a deep-seated anger that is the result of being hurt deeply. At some point, such a person was belittled in such a painful way that, in an unconscious attempt to regain a sense of confidence and acceptance, they have a need to put down others to build up themselves.

That is quite a shame. It is an example of how a harsh, impulsive comment can injure a person for life. And such a hurt can continuously perpetuate itself.

In the book of James, we are cautioned about the language we use. In chapter three we read, “The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.”

Be careful with the words you use. Think before you speak. There is great wisdom in the adage of counting to 10 before saying something in anger, because once the words are out, they cannot be taken back and the damage is already done.

Remember what Solomon said: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.