Leo Tolstoy
· The Circle of Reading
Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev

January 5

A single person screams “Fire!” in a crowded building and the crowd stampedes, killing dozens, hundreds of people. This is overt harm caused by a word. But the harm caused by our words is no less great when we do not see the people whom we have injured.


A wound inflicted by a missile can still be treated, but a wound inflicted by a tongue will never heal.

— Persian saying


For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who does not stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also. Indeed, we put bits into the horses’ mouths so that they may obey us, and we guide their whole body. Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds, are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.

— James 3:2–6


When you hear people talking about the depravity of others, do not take part in their pleasure. When you hear about people’s bad deeds, do not listen to the end and try to forget what you have heard. But when you hear talk of people’s virtues, remember them and tell others about them.

Do this, and soon you will grow so used to it that, when you hear about people’s evil, it will be as painful to you as if you were the one being scolded, and, when your tongue lets slip an evil word about a neighbor, it will be as painful to you as if you had hit yourself.

— Eastern wisdom


Pay attention to people’s quarrels, but do not get involved. May God save you from quick temper and rage, even in their smallest of expressions. Anger is everywhere improper, and above all in a just cause, for it darkens and muddies it.

— Gogol


I said, “I will watch my ways, so that I do not sin with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me.”

— Psalm 39:1

Beware of sowing discord among people by provoking bad feelings between them with your words.