The Tongue Doesn't Chew, but It Can Bite

The Tongue Doesn't Chew, but It Can Bite

Last update: 21 February, 2017

Everybody knows that the tongue doesn’t chew, but it can bite. It does this using words, tone, and cowardly phrases that go from ear to ear behind someone’s back. People who lack muscle in the heart have plenty in the tongue, which is always quick to demonstrate its skill.

It’s curious how, despite the fact that words are the language of the brain and the result of our evolution as a species, we’re capable of using them to cause harm. We still haven’t mastered the refined and subtle world of words and emotions and learned how to be more empathetic, more intimate. We don’t know how to be people who can coexist instead of building walls with rumors, verbal aggression, and insults.

“The tongue, like a sharp knife, kills without drawing blood.”


We all know that the tongue is capable of hurting others just as much as sticks and stones. Sure, humans have evolved considerably, there’s no doubt about it. We’re more sophisticated, more skilled, more likely to survive in an equally changing and demanding environment as that of our ancestors. However, there are some things that should force us to reflect, to become a bit more self-aware.

It’s been years since we’ve taken another great leap as a species. We’ve opened up the path to the digital era. However, instead of maximizing the connection between humans, new technologies tend to achieve quite the opposite.

In this setting, the tongue uses its subtle anonymity to cause real harm through words – just 140 characters is enough. This harm can have serious consequences, but the responsibility for it is blurred.

Why do we do it? Why do we “bite with the tongue” until we destroy other people’s lives?

fish flying around girl

Words that cause real pain

Sometimes, anger can consume us. Sometimes the tension of the moment makes us say the wrong thing and break the heart of the person we love into pieces. As they say, it’s always better to opt for silence in a moment of tension than to spend the next hundred years regretting what you said.

Everyone, absolutely everyone, has the power to cause harm with the tongue, with words. But when we say “harm,” we’re not talking about a simple metaphor. Because the emotional pain caused by language is real, and it can be seen through neuroimaging.

The invisible pain that nobody sees

At the University of California Los Angeles, the department of neurology did a study and discovered that hearing words loaded with contempt, as well as constantly suffering from the impact of criticism or rumors, activates what’s known as the “neural network of social rejection.” 

The person’s brain activity changes and they become suspended in a state of “disconnection,” oscillating between anger and depression.

upset woman

They also observed that verbal aggression produces a more profound and lasting effect than physical abuse. Its impact can even affect a child’s development. Factors like intimidation or verbal abuse, which many children suffer at school, are correlated with the amount white matter in the brain, even in the hippocampuswhich is a structure related to memory and emotions.

Stop and think: your tongue is a weapon

We know that the tongue can hurt, but in the same way, few medicines are as healing as wise words. A voice that comforts, a look that consoles, an ear that listens, and words that connect from the heart. So why is it so hard to put these actions into practice?

First of all, not everyone has the strategies or abilities to do so. Many studies reveal that children who intimidate and bully others have serious emotional and even mental problems. Many of them see aggression as synonymous with power. This behavior is their only way to reaffirm themselves in a personal context characterized by uprooting and a lack of education in respect and empathy.

woman in box

Secondly, people who get carried away by the voracity and agility of their tongue are incapable of passing their thoughts through an appropriate mental filter that would smooth out their edges and activate their emotional management and self-control.

We live in a society where the tongue has a wide audience and many different channels to express itself. In fact, it can unite a certain group against a disadvantaged individual or minority group. Instead of falling into the dynamic of “white sheep against black sheep,” we must be able to lift ourselves up as people who can think for themselves.

Ultimately, the tongue is nothing more than an instrument of the brain. If we allow it to act on its own, it will give a voice to ignorance, to our most primitive instincts, to poisonous and harmful words.

It isn’t worth it.  Before you speak or post something on a social network, listen and observe. Be careful, because sometimes, silence is preferable to any word that you might later regret.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.