You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
With the social media available to us today it is possible to see, hear and comment instantly on any event taking place anywhere in the world. Whilst the images we see can show one side of the event only and so not reflect the whole picture that does not stop some people from making comments on social media before knowing the full facts – and there have been many examples of that recently sometimes by people who should know better. A period of reflection often leads to a more measured response. On this point Thomas Merton once wrote: “There are many declarations made only because we think other people are expecting us to make them. The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak. But we cannot bear the thought of that silence, lest it cost us the trust and respect of men.” Equally it is easy to distribute images of any sort on social media sites even those inciting violence or hatred; these may be exaggerated but who knows?
Now think for a moment, how often have you said something in haste and immediately wished you had not? Sadly, once spoken the words cannot be recalled, the hornet’s nest has been disturbed, the damage done. All words have an effect on the hearer in some way; whether they are words of sympathy, consolation or sarcasm, insulting or otherwise harmful. Here the advice of St Peter when writing to the communities of young churches of Gentiles in Asia Minor around 60 AD is appropriate: Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit. 1 Peter 3:10. Indeed, both St Peter’s and Thomas Merton’s advice holds good today just as it did when first written. The bedrock of our faith is our love for God and our love for our neighbour. (Matthew 22:37-39) These are two sides of the same coin since our love of God must be evident from our actions towards and the way we speak to and about our neighbours. Does what we say reflect respect or disrespect for our fellow man? In what way should we reflect the values of God’s peace and love towards those we live or work with? What more can we do to reflect those values? We must not forget that our neighbour loves his family and children as we do. He too will become sick and will die as we will. We must realise that he and his family are God’s children and members of the same human family as we are.
This begs the question, which is more important the respect of man or the love of God? What do you think?
Loving Father, I pray that you will teach me to guard my tongue and guide my words so that I may speak to and of my neighbour only with kindness, respect and love. Amen
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years