Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pogo Was Right

Pogo was a once popular cartoon by Walt Kelly. One of the most famous lines ever coined was “We have met the enemy and he is us.” If you have ever done or said something you wish you could take back, you can relate to Pogo. Surely there was a time in your life when you wished there had been a “delete button” to erase what you said in frustration or anger. The Book of James talks about how a tiny bit in the mouth of a horse can be used to move such a large animal and how even large ships are steered by a small rudder. And so it is with the tongue, one of the smallest body parts “it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

This is strong language but if we have ever been the recipient of a hurtful barrage of unkind words we realize how devastating such an experience can be. Often what is worse is that the person who hurt was speaking out of anger and/or frustration, they didn’t really mean what they said. (Or perhaps you didn’t mean what you said.) I have had to confess in recent times that I suffer from an illness, MMIFTMB. In lay person’s terms “my mouse is faster than my brain”. I’m sure that if James was writing this same text today he would include e-mails, and text messages as other forms of potential hurtful communication.

The reality is that we have little or no control over the emotions we experience. Emotions in and of themselves are morally neutral, not right or wrong. However how we respond to those emotions can make a huge difference. Even in times of war there are international terms of humane conduct set up by the Geneva Convention. Perhaps we could avoid critically wounding another person by our words by following a few simple terms of conduct. First of all never attack a person’s character, i.e. you are stupid, you’re just like your father/mother, you have the IQ of an emotionally challenged squirrel. Second, refrain from generalizations, i.e. you never, you always. Such comments beg for rebuttal. And finally try to refrain from bringing up past hurts. Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”

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