Column: Kind words and cruelness underline power of speech

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster

Last week’s there was a headline was about vitriolic hate mail and anonymous abuse directed towards one of our clergy.

It was a sad reminder of the ease with which we may sin by our words – be they spoken, written with a pen or typed on social media.

I could not help comparing the hateful words with the generous words I have received on announcing my retirement in the same week.

In Proverbs it says: ‘The tongue of the wise enhances knowledge but the mouth of dense people pours out stupidity’. Never be misled by the tongue’s smallness. It may not be as large as either a hand or a foot but it has great potential for good and bad.

As I listened to the new President of the United States of America I asked myself was I listening to words inspiring a nation to great endeavours or was I hearing arrogance and self-confidence?

The tongue has been compared to a bit used in a horse’s mouth to control it or a rudder to steer a ship.

Even when the winds are strong and, contrary to the ship’s direction, the rudder continues to hold the ship on its determined course.

The human tongue is like both the bit and the rudder in its smallness … and it far surpasses them in its power to influence people’s lives.

What we say influences others, but it also has a reflex influence on ourselves.

If we express what is uncharitable or wrong we gratify the evil nature that is in us, and strengthen it.

If, on the contrary, we refuse to express it, we strike a death blow at the cursed thing itself.

If something is on fire in the room, don’t open a door or window, for air is its fuel and food. And if a fire is burning within you, be sure not to give it vent.

In Proverbs again it says: “Evil plans – (that is, plans to do harm to people) are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.”

Let’s all set a watch upon our lips and opt for grateful, generous, openhanded, and openhearted words – those that build up, not tear down.