Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. (James 3:4)

WHENEVER I DIRECT a large musical ensemble, I use a conductor’s baton. Its wooden tip provides a focal point for the musicians, and it allows me to mark crystal-clear beats using tiny flicks of the wrist—a tremendous advantage during fast passages.

It takes discipline, though. The baton amplifies superfluous motion, so if I’m not careful, it’ll distract and confuse the players rather than coordinate their efforts.

Perhaps if James had been a musician, he would have talked about the power of the tongue in those terms instead of a ship’s rudder. I’ve learned how even a few wayward jerks of my baton can derail an otherwise virtuosic performance. Likewise, it only takes a few unseasoned words to drive a serious wedge between close friends.

The good news is that we can harness the power of our tongues to speak life back into our relationships too. By sincerely apologizing for our missteps and by graciously declaring forgiveness over those who wrong us, we put damaged relationships back on track before they break down. And once the hurt has been addressed, our spontaneous expressions of affirmation and appreciation can help steel friendships against future upsets.

With God’s help and a little self-control, we can use our tongues the way a skilled maestro uses his baton—to delicately keep things in sync when they might otherwise fall apart.

Apologize for a potentially hurtful thing you’ve recently said.

Johnathan Kana lives with his wife and two children in rural central Texas. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing piano and composing music.

© 2018 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.