By Rev Jonny Campbell-Smyth
Last night I stood, as I do more often now, at the side of the pitch as my youngest boy, Nathan (8) was training with the football squad at Greenisland.
Now I’m really no footballer, but there were a few suspect tackles going on that Nathan was involved in that I wasn’t happy with. Before I knew it I was shouting across the pitch telling him off for what he had done. You could see immediately the effect it had on the wee lad - his heart was no longer in the game, all because of the choice of words that I had used. They hadn’t encouraged him, but instead had chastised him.
As parents I’m sure we all have regretted when we haven’t said the right things in the right circumstances. And more and more I have become very careful about what I say, just in case it could be misconstrued or said without love. It’s very easy to open our mouths and say something, and then having released a few words we then realise we really shouldn’t have said what we did.
Politicians historically have been very good at coming straight out with things they really shouldn’t have said. George Bush, during his presidency, was well renowned for some of his statements. Speaking at the President’s economic forum in 2002 he said this: “I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn’t here.”
We have all said things that we wish we hadn’t. Some things that we say can just be silly, but sometimes the things we say can have such a sting that it can ruin friendships, and it can hurt others. There are also times where things do need to be said, but it’s how we say it that really will make the difference between knocking someone down or helping them along the way.
The brother of Jesus was a man called James, and he wrote a letter to early 1st century Christians about how they should behave. In it he talks about the tongue being a small part of the body but yet it makes great boasts, it can corrupt the whole person, and how at the same time it can be an instrument of great encouragement and for praising God.
How today will you use words? Will they be used to encourage someone, or will they be used to knock someone down? James reminds us that all of us, whatever ethnicity, whatever beliefs, whatever values, have all been made in the likeness and image of God. Let all of us be careful about our words today.