JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) — The London games are proving that words are often more powerful than the strongest and most athletic of human beings. Long days of training, months of repetitive practice, and years of relentless discipline are simply not enough to outperform the sometimes devastating consequences of careless words spoken in the heat of thoughtless moments.
Today, Shakespeare might ask “To tweet, or not to tweet?” This seems like a timely question for days like ours. Recent Twitter-related scandals coming out of Britain surely have some in the Twittersphere experiencing what might be called Twitter’s remorse.
United States Olympian Hope Solo was quickly chastised by her coach when she used social media to publicly question the knowledge of a soccer analyst.
Police arrested a teenager and are investigating “malicious communication” tweeted about Britain’s synchronized diver, Tom Daley. Heartless comments about Daley’s Olympic performance and deceased father are just unspeakable.
The Swiss Olympic team expelled a sportsman who tweeted racist and threatening comments about an opposing team after losing a soccer match. Imagine how many years this athlete had worked, trained, practiced, hoped and anticipated playing before the world at the 2012 Olympics — only to see it all vanish with the quick movements of a few hasty thumb strokes.
A Greek triple jumper was dropped from her team after making snide remarks about mosquitoes and African immigrants in her country. Techniques of the triple jump aside, unsportsmanlike conduct by any other name is unsportsmanlike conduct.
Children are often fond of saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The cute little saying simply is not true. It’s not true on the school playground, and it’s not true at the Olympic village. The Bible teaches and life affirms that words often do hurt. Words hurt us, and words hurt others — often more than we want to admit.
Will Rogers once quipped, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Such home-spun advice is especially hard in today’s world where social media allows anyone to instantly and indiscriminately publish anything and everything. As people quietly type on their personal handheld devices, tools like Twitter and Facebook offer a seeming anonymity which often deceives one into thinking that words are somehow inconsequential.
The reality of consequences, however, should cause us to reflect on Rogers’s aphoristic wisdom and remember the Bible’s irreversible rule that “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Indeed, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
The technological advances of our 21st century society where communication is both instant and global allow for the opportunity to give life or death more quickly and more broadly than ever before. Now more than ever, we should strive to “Let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] are to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
Proverbs 25:11 says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Let us go for gold with every word we speak … or for that matter, tweet.
Todd E. Brady is vice president for church relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).