The other day, following a link on my AOL welcome page...which is sometimes very similar to a rumor mill/gossip rag...I came across a video of Sharon Osbourne, along with a couple Sirius radio announcers, trashing Susan Boyle. It was all good fun...in the tradition of Howard Stern. They all had a big laugh...thought it was a hoot to say nasty, mean spirited, hurtful things. It made me shudder. It stayed with me a lot of the day.
I always thought that even though Sharon is married to Ozzie...a guy who has gnawed the head off of a live bat...that she was quite classy. She also seemed...from the little I've watched of America's Got Talent...to be kind. The things she says on the video are the polar opposite of kind.
So while I mulled this around in my head a lot of the day, I realized, no doubt due to the gentle, convicting illumination of the Holy Spirit, that I am sometimes...often...guilty of the same crime. I've made fun of people. Usually in my head, but sometimes out loud..
Many times I have not behaved all that differently than Sharon and her cohorts...finding humor at the expense of someone else's shortcomings. Didn't Jesus address that? General idea being that if we harbor something in our heart (hate for our brother...lust) we are guilty to the same degree as if we acted upon it. Whether we blurt it out or quietly snicker to ourselves, the root is the same. Although restraint (and clenched lips) are preferable because it spares others pain, we need to take a good hard look at the root of what causes these thoughts and emotions. Where does the meanness come from?
All this mulling around made me think of some stuff I've stored in the archives of my brain (and somewhere in the archives on my computer) Two separate writings from Christian men I admire...Max Lucado and Adam Hamilton about some guidelines to govern our big mouths.
First the advice from Max....
The Defeat of the Tongue
Insensitivity makes a wound that heals slowly. If someone hurts your feelings intentionally you know how to react. You know the source of the pain. But if someone accidentally bruises your soul, it’s difficult to know how to respond.
Someone at work criticizes the new boss who also happens to be your dear friend. “Oh, I’m sorry—I forgot the two of you were so close.”
A joke is told at a party about overweight people. You’re overweight. You hear the joke. You smile politely while your heart sinks.
What was intended to be a reprimand for a decision or action becomes a personal attack. “You have a history of poor decisions, John.”
Someone chooses to wash your dirty laundry in public. “Sue, is it true that you and Jim are separated?”
Insensitive comments. Thoughts that should have remained thoughts. Feelings which had no business being expressed. Opinions carelessly tossed like a grenade into a crowd.
And if you were to tell the one who threw these thoughtless darts about the pain they caused, his response would be “Oh, but I had no intention…I didn’t realize you were so sensitive!” or “I forgot you were here.”
Listed under the title of subterfuge is the poison of insensitivity. It’s called subterfuge because it’s so subtle. Just a slip of the tongue. Just a blank of memory. No one is at fault. No harm done.
Perhaps. And, perhaps not. For as the innocent attackers go on their way excusing themselves for things done without hurtful intention, a wounded soul is left in the dust, utterly confused. “If no one intended to hurt me, then why do I hurt so badly?”
God’s Word has strong medicine for those who carelessly wag their tongues.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.
He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
The message is clear: He who dares to call himself God’s ambassador is not afforded the luxury of idle words. Excuses such as “I didn’t know you were here” or “I didn’t realize this was so touchy” are shallow when they come from those who claim to be followers and imitators of the Great Physician. We have an added responsibility to guard our tongues.
These practical steps will purge careless words from your talk:
1. Never tell jokes that slander.
2. Never criticize in public unless you: have already expressed your disappointment with the other person in private, have already taken someone with you to discuss the grievance with the person, and are absolutely convinced that public reprimand is necessary and will be helpful.
3. Never say anything about anyone in their absence that you wouldn’t say in their presence.