The first sermon I ever heard was about my tongue.
If I was a ship, my tongue was the rudder, steering me. Wherever I was at, I could probably thank or blame my tongue. If my life was burning down around me, my tongue was the spark.
It was weird, but it resonated. As I listened, I physically felt the truth to it.
My words mattered.
Not in a self-help – ‘speak it out and the universe will manifest it’ – way, but in the nature of integrity. The consequences of choosing a complaint over gratitude, criticism before encouragement, slander instead of an apology. To swear, when I could just express exactly how I really felt.
After that, the more light I chose to voice, the brighter I was. The darker my words, the darker my behaviour and the darker my surroundings. The behavior of my tongue was from the overflow of my heart, yes, but I discovered that if I could control it, I could control my entire spiritual trajectory. Was I moving closer to or further from peace? The things I voiced decided that for me.
The first way I learned to honour myself, my community and God was with the words coming out of my mouth. I could choose my words, and therefore choose my environment – that was a rattling revelation. Previously, I spoke what I felt. I spoke to be liked. To fill space. I spoke for the sake of speaking. I spoke because I was terrified of not having a voice. It never occurred to me that I was brandishing both a weapon, and a deeply powerful tool of creation.
‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.’ (Proverbs 18:21)
It is still the most difficult part of this walk, for me. I struggle with when to speak, what to say, how to mend things my foolish words have broken… But my tongue’s rehabilitation (in His grace) is integral to my craft, and my creative walk.
As actors, we allow our tongues to be harnessed by other people – writers, and their characters – with different stories, and we allow those words to steer not only our own trajectories, but the trajectories of those who watch and listen. We are responsible for what we say, in and out of character.
I’m fascinated by art as activism. Art for justice. Art for political, social or personal development. The true seeds of our creative journeys are not desires for fame or success, but our desires to ignite and propel. To set hearts on fire, revolutions in motion. We are constantly devising how to scream louder, speak clearer, deliver more effectively. We want to be heard, because we have something to say that could possibly change the course of the person that hears it.
As perpetrators of beauty, we aren’t always considered to be on the front line of activism. Of course, some of the most impassioned activists I know are all in the form of working artists, yet their art is treated as commentary, rather than protest. An allusion, instead of a direct outcry. I disagree with this.
Art does not hint, it exposes.
‘This is not right. This is not of love.’
The artists are not suggesting change, they are creating it.
I believe creativity subverts and disarms the powers of destruction.
Art is ferocious in its honesty, but art is, ultimately, gentle. By taking a stand as a creator, the artist chooses the path of peace.
The artist transforms weapons into tools for harvest.
“They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations will not raise swords against nations, and they will not learn warfare anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
We want to shake the foundations of our institutions, to see love flourish, to see equality and justice. We try it all ways we can. We scream and rage. We veil our moral metaphors. We work only under specific conditions that honour, and do not degrade. We stand by our truths (oh yes, our many varied truths) through scathing criticism or bigotry. Sometimes we fall back, our voices muted, our diverse causes seemingly hopeless, criss-crossing one another in political and artistic hypocrisy and competition. Sometimes we forget that we are all looking for the same peace.
We can be encouraged, in our journeys to ignite and to expose, by the truth that no word is wasted. Hope is victorious. We can have faith that love and time erode the hardest heart. We must be patient. Persevere. Savour silence. Savour the bright, carefully chosen word we speak.
The gentle tongue is the ‘weapon’ of peace.
I am continuously inspired by brothers and sisters of mine who have committed to the cause ‘Love Makes A Way’. These protestors are fighting – silently and peacefully – for the rights of asylum seekers in detention. They sit in the offices of politicians and pray, until they are amicably arrested and escorted out. With great patience and great love, they continue in their mission. They are exposing injustice and they are seeing change.
‘Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)
Our causes are not impossible. We must rage on in our gentle cry. Responsible for our work, responsible for our art, responsible for our tongues.
Steering our future towards peace.
Sparking flames of love, not fear, with the little words we whisper to creation.
(For more, I suggest reading Brian Zahnd’s ‘A Farewell to Mars’, Erwin McManus’ ‘The Artisan Soul’, and anything Jarrod McKenna has written)