Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sharp (03/07/13)
TITLE: Razor Tongue
By Ellen Carr
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That was the message passed around the office. Rachelle Tungston was the manager of a team of twenty. Smart, efficient and sure of herself, she didn't seem to mind being disliked. People whispered about her and avoided her when they could.
Rachelle oozed confidence. As Office Manager at B B Hester Investments she knew what was what and who was who. She ran a tight ship, keeping a close eye on things. Nothing escaped her scrutiny, except the whispers about her and the names she was called behind her back. 'Razor Tongue' was the favourite nickname, and with good reason.
Her strictly-regular team meetings were crisp and well-planned. She came prepared with agendas and lists. Tardiness was not tolerated and inefficiency was derided. She chose these meetings to point out mistakes and inefficiencies. Lowering her glasses on her nose, she would glare at her poor victim and let out a barrage of complaints - a client had been kept waiting, a deadline had been missed, or too much time was being wasted at the water cooler. Her sharp tongue would cut the person down in front of their colleagues. Her nickname fitted her well.
Warning whispers began to circulate. 'Razor Tongue's coming!' 'Watch out, or you'll get the sharp edge of her tongue.' A heavy atmosphere invaded the office. One never knew what might set her off on a tirade.
Then one day a different whisper went round the office, a cheerful whisper. 'Razor Tongue's going on leave for four weeks! Yippee!' The tone in the office lifted in anticipation, and when she was wasn't there next Monday morning there was a tangible feeling of relief. Her replacement was a cheery woman, one of the troops. People walked with lighter steps. Shoulders relaxed.
But the four weeks flew by and the dreaded 'Razor Tongue' returned from her leave. There she was, large as life, on Monday morning, yet … there was something different about her. Everyone noticed, and the whispers began:
'Maybe she's fallen in love!' 'Could her holiday have changed her in some way?'
True to form, Rachelle called a meeting. With drooping shoulders and down-turned mouths the team assembled, steeling themselves for her onslaught, for her sharp-tongued tirades. But something was definitely different. She was smiling.
'I'm glad to be back,' she began. 'But before we get onto our agenda I have something I'd like to say to you all.'
A heavy silence fell over the room. People shifted uneasily in their chairs wondering what new complaint they would hear. Perhaps she wasn't happy with what her replacement had done in her absence. Maybe things hadn't progressed enough.
'I want to apologise to all of you for my sharp tongue.'
You could have heard a pin drop.
'I realised over my vacation that I have said unfair and unkind things to many of you since I've been in this position.' Mouths dropped open. They couldn't believe that they were hearing this.
'I've started reading the most famous book in the world - the Bible - and one thing I read was this, in the Epistle of James, '… no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.' I was convicted that it applied to me and the way I've been talking to people around here.'
The deathly silence persisted, but expressions on faces changed. Some looked puzzled, some sceptical. Rachelle continued:
'I know this will sound very weird to some of you, and I don't intend to start talking religion here. Just let me ask your forgiveness for the sharp-tongued things I have said in the past. I intend to change the way I speak to people. That's all I'll say on that, but if anyone wants to ask me more about it, please come and see me. Now, to our agenda for today.'
The stunned silence turned into respect as the meeting proceeded very differently to usual. Rachelle sought people's opinions and listened as they tentatively responded. No-one was cut down or derided. Yet everyone was cautious. This new Rachelle - was she for real?
Whispers abounded after the meeting. 'She's found God!' 'It won't last; just give her a week!' Just one person plucked up the courage to go and ask Rachelle what had happened to change her so much, and she heard the rest of the story, the story of Rachelle's new-found faith.
James 3:8 (NIV)
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