Great Forest Fires

I’ve always dug the New Testament epistle of James. Maybe it’s his straightforward writing style that even I can understand. Two recent stories made me think of Chapter 3 verses 3-5:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Story one involves Peter Alliss’s induction speech at the Golf Hall of Fame ceremony a few weeks ago in Flo Rida. Mrs. Weymouth, Alliss’s U.K. grade school teacher wrote on his final report card, “Peter has a brain, he’s just loathe to use it. . . . I fear for his future.” Alliss brought the house down by ending his speech by flipping Mrs. Weymouth the bird.

Story two is from the Johnny Carson documentary that aired a few weeks ago on PBS. Early in Carson’s career his mom took in a show. Notoriously mean, he asked what she thought afterwards. She replied something like, “That wasn’t funny. Jack Paar was way more funny.” Carson was crushed.

Has anyone ever captured the potential for harm that results from impulsive, hurtful comments as beautifully as James? All of us say things we regret. Slowing down, regularly centering oneself, praying or meditating, are probably the best ways to avoid saying mean-spirited, hurtful things that may very well spark great fires within the social networks of our lives.