My daughter sings a simple sunday school song titled O Be Careful Little Eyes. The song warns children to be carful what their eyes see, what their ears hear, what their hands do, and where their feet go. It’s beyond adorable to hear my youngest daughter sing, complete with uncoordinated yet adorable hand motions. But don’t let the cuteness fool you, this song brings a stark warning.
Do be careful little eyes. You never know what you might be reading. You click on a webpage, you expand a status, you open a book and you begin reading small sets of letters strung together to form words. It’s a very dangerous thing.
But don’t worry, you are probably safe. The best I can tell it isn’t the reading, or even the hearing of the words that is all that dangerous. It’s the saying, and writing of words that will get you into trouble. Which may be why the final verse of the song utters the strongest warning of them all. It says:
O be careful little mouth what you say.
Don’t take it lightly. If you aren’t careful, when you least expect it, those words– carelessly uttered or typed– can take on a life of their own.
At least that seems to be what happened to Justine Sacco, PR exec for the parent company of Vimeo, who carelessly tweeted before boarding a plane to Africa. When she landed, she was unemployed. Not long before Sacco tweeted herself out of a job; Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty answered a simple question about what he thought. When those words were published in a widely read interview, Phil lost his role in the number one reality TV show of all time.
What I really want to know, however, is why we aren’t reading about how Drew Magary is out of a job? He wrote the GQ article. Or why the thousands of people who retweeted and hash tagged Sacco’s comments, or the 100’s of news articles reporting what she has said, why aren’t those people out of a job? After all, what Phil Robertson said was only heard by maybe one or two other people. It was Drew Magary and the publishers at GQ magazine that made them public. They used the very same set of words in the very same order, but because the words didn’t originate with him, Drew was safe to say them.
So it can’t be words that are dangerous. Because if they were, then everyone would be afraid to repeat them. It can’t be the words that are offensive, if they were people would be upset that the words are repeatedly being published and thus allowed to continue offending untold numbers of people.
No, what the song should really warn us of is our thoughts. O be careful little minds what you think. Because when you really boil it down, no one was offended that those words were said, they were offended that they were thought.
So where does the danger lie? Is it in the saying of the words? Is it in the thinking of the words? Or did the real danger manifest itself in the minds of the people hearing them? After all, that’s what ultimately got two people fired. It wasn’t that they thought those things, or even that they said them. Its that what they said caught fire and took on a flesh and life of its own.
This all leads me to believe It’s not just the words or the thoughts we should be concerned about. It’s the mob. It’s the crazy, unpredictable mob of people (that you and I are often a part of) that makes anything thought or said potentially dangerous. It is the mob that gives thoughts, words, and ideas a life, and it is the same mob that ultimately demands death.
With Christmas right around the corner my mind is drawn toward another Word that took on life and ultimately killed because of the mob. That word is Jesus, who John tells us is the Word who took on flesh. I spend a fair share of my time thinking, writing, and teaching the offensive words of Jesus Christ. Only we (Christians) don’t think of them as very offensive anymore. But they were offensive. In fact they were so offensive that a mob demanded the death of Jesus of Nazareth. All because of something he said.
So do be careful, not just about what you think, say, or hear. But be careful about what you demand in response to what you hear. The power of life and death is in your hands. With your words and thoughts you have the power to extend love and offer life. Whether that love is extended to a homosexual teen contemplating suicide or a scraggly bearded man who likes to shoot stuff. We have the potential to offer love even when we disagree but chose not to hand out consequence, and this act is life giving. It is the very act that Word made Flesh did all those years ago. We might deserve death but instead, we receive abundant life. When we are loved to that magnitude, how can we be so quick to hand out punishment?
So be careful little mob what you demand. You may be setting a precedent for your own thoughts and words.
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Photo Credit: Karolina Wojtasik/A&E