This aphorism is usually used to advise close friends or members of the family or husband and wife when there is a conflict, when they do not see eye-to-eye. Teeth and tongue are used here to demonstrate the close proximity of one from the other.
When family member squabble amongst themselves, when good friends bicker between themselves, when lovers have their quarrels and when husbands and wives clash they are usually advised to patch up and told to accept such tiffs as normal. This example of the close proximity of the teeth to the tongue is often quoted to show that though there is nothing more close to the tongue than the teeth, the teeth do still occasionally bite the tongue. It says no matter how close one is to the other quarrels, tiffs, clashes, bickering, conflicts and disputes do still occur. One should not read too much or emphasize too much on the differences as all these will pass.
The wisdom passes down here is for one not to be too hasty when one faces some misunderstanding with people close to you. Patience and tolerance are advocated, mindfulness of the closeness of the relationship is highlighted. It teaches that peace and harmony in relationship are to be valued and given priority over the righteousness of the arguments or position.
Hats off to the ancient Chinese sages! If married couples were to take the advice to heart would the divorce rate drop?
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