I've always been a talker. In my early years of religious life, however, I found my talkativeness dissipating, so since then I have consciously trained myself to speak less.
I think that most people talk too much. On the other hand, we don't spend enough time reflecting on the meaning and power of speech.
In these first couple years of my priesthood I have had a lot of opportunity to reflect on speech. Words are powerful. I pronounce the Eucharistic Prayer each day, and that act combined with my intention and the ordination the Church has given me, renews and commemorates on the altar the sacrifice of the Cross and the sublime self-giving of Christ. Whether I speak the words of absolution as a confessor or receive them as a penitent, the power and depth of that moment of speech is stunning.
As a confessor, however, I have also come to a new appreciation of the destructive power of speech. Indeed, I am convinced that much of everyday sin and some of the most serious sins of ordinary people are those committed through speech. Detraction and calumny, gossip, simulation and dissimulation, and lying to ourselves and others are all examples of the ways we hurt each other. They are embedded in the cultures of workplaces and religious communities. I have been surprised (and scandalized) as a confessor to find that a lot of people don't have a very well formed conscience in this area and often lack the moral vocabulary to examine their consciences about it. For example, many don't seem to know the difference between gossip and detraction, or between detraction and calumny. (I don't find every form of speech that we might call 'gossip' to be sinful, by the way.)
In the confessional, one of the passages of Scripture I find myself quoting most frequently is James 3:5, "...the tongue is a small member but has great pretensions."
Speech is one aspect of our creation in the image and likeness of God. This is why it is so powerful. We must remember that it was through speech that God created the universe: 'God said...and so it happened.' The core of our Trinitarian faith is the confession that from all eternity the Father speaks the Word who is the perfect image of himself. "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God." This is the Word that appears in Genesis as the creating power, and the Word become flesh in Jesus Christ. As those creatures made in God's 'image and likeness' we share in this power, this speech which is that the heart of both creation and redemption. That's why our words are so powerful. Human speech is close to the intense creative power of God and so has infinite potential for good in our relationships. On the other hand, when it turns wrong, it has a terrible destructive power. (Here we should note that this is much like our sexuality, through which we also experience the blessing of sharing in divine creativity but also the danger of terrible hurt.) Let us imitate the God who, from all eternity, speaks only the creative and reconciling Word.