When Sarah started at her new school one of the other girls began to spread rumours about her. Sarah noticed that people acted differently around her. "I don't really care anymore," she says now, "but at the time it really, really hurt and I was so mad I could have killed her."
Sarah didn't kill her, though. She always felt a little bit insecure about herself and she didn't want to confront the girl because she thought that would make people dislike her even more. So she did nothing. Said nothing. Just let it happen to her.
When Michael started at his new school one of the other boys started to pick on him. Not physically - but by calling him names, making sly jokes up about him all the time. Michael responded very quickly, by using the same approach - giving as good as he got, being sarcastic, gossipping, making fun of other people who were weaker, smaller, more vulnerable than him.
"I was the loudest boy in the school at that time," Michael now says, looking back, "I only ever talked about myself; and I treated other people like rubbish."
Rob and Emma were really good friends, until once Rob said something silly that hurt Emma's feelings. Emma responded by going off and ignoring Rob - for ages and ages she would avoid him and whenever he tried to get her to say what the matter was, she'd just say, "Oh, nothing", and walk away.
They made it up eventually - when Emma learned to talk about her feelings and found that she could explain to Rob why she'd been upset by what he'd said.
The bible says the tongue is a tiny part of our bodies but it carries great power - power to destroy ourselves and others or power to to help us live in harmony with each other. If you saw yourself in any of the characters whose stories I've just told, you'll know what I mean.
The message is - to live in harmony we need to learn the language.
- If we are like Sally we need to learn to speak up for ourselves, to look people in the eye and say, "That hurt me."
If we are like Michael we need to learn to speak less loudly, to speak encouragingly to others, to build good friendships.
And if we are like Emma we need to learn to talk about our feelings so that others who care about us, can understand us.
Watching such people, listening to them, helps us to grow, helps us to learn the language they speak, to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, and with others.
This talk owes a great deal to various parts of the excellent book by Earl Hipp, Understanding the Human Volcano - What teens can do about violence. The Human Volcano website is well worth a look for people - especially young people - wanting to explore this issue some more.