One of the greatest challenges in life is learning to "tame the beast", in whatever form the beast may present itself. Religiously speaking, this is referred to as overcoming the natural man, or bridling one's passions. Metaphysically speaking, it would be evolving or enlightenment. It's all the same. Growth begins when we can claim our weaknesses and then work to conquer them, rather than sit back resigned to a state of "this is just who I am". This is the saddest kind of hopelessness to me.
My mouth is my beast. My mind works fast. It is sharp and sassy and witty and intuitive and a blessing. It can also be opinionated, judgemental, sarcastic, and biting... and a curse. I often forget that I don't need to say everything that comes into my mind, that not everyone cares. I wish the connection from my mind to my mouth would short-circuit a bit more often than it does, but this is my challenge, and I take courage in knowing that I am not alone:
"...I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle..." Psalms 39:1
"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs 13:3
"And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword..." 1 Nephi 21:2
If this was Nephi's gift, I have no doubt that he struggled to bridle it, as I do. That's the way it works: virtue and vice. Then just yesterday I was reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling, before my older kids have to read it in homeschool, and I stopped at the following passage:
"You kin tame a 'coon. You kin tame a bear. You kin tame a wildcat and you kin tame a panther." He pondered. His mind went back to his father's sermons. "You can tame arything, son, excusin' the human tongue." (p.79)
Yikes. Almost true. Taming the human tongue is tough, but not impossible. We can overcome all weakness through the Lord. It is in that very act that we are made strong:
"...for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." Ether 12:27
It is in the weakness that humility and softening are found. When I was a young mother with two children, I often found myself overwhelmed and running on empty. My fuse was short, as was my temper with my sweet little ones, from whom I expected too much. After scolding my daughter, who was 4 at the time, I was filled with remorse and went to sit on the front porch to weep with my weakness. She came and sat down next to me. I looked into her angelic face, and her eyes looked lovingly into mine, those eyes that have always had an exceptional gift of wisdom, and I said, "Mommy hurts your feelings all the time, don't I?"
She scooted closer to me and wrapped her little arm around my back. "Only sometimes," she answered.
"I'm so sorry, my Lyns," I said. "I shouldn't do that."
"That's okay, Mommy," she said without thought. "I relieve you."
I looked at her. She had meant forgive, but how appropriate and ironic was her mix-up. Isn't that exactly what we do when we forgive, relieve? Relieve from burden or sorrow or guilt? Isn't that what the Savior does for us when he extends his benevolent hand in forgiveness towards us? Out of the mouth of babes.
These two themes, weakness and forgiveness, play such a prevalent part in my life these days. With one, the other is needed. As often as I extend forgiveness, it's true that I need it extended to me with even greater frequency. And there's something divine in the extension, something heavenward, heavenly, heavenbound.