KERRY HUBARTT: We should control our tongue, and thumbs, when debating

Kerry Hubartt

I think social media is a useful and productive tool in the evolution of communications. My personal experience with Facebook and Twitter, for example, has been good. Those people I choose to interact with have been generally kind and at least discerning in their comments.

But we are all painfully aware, thanks to continual coverage in the news media, of how “tweets” can be impulsive, ill-advised and hurtful. And if you scan the comments on posts throughout the social media universe you’ll find an alarming amount of negativity. And some can be vicious. Words can hurt others, and you can’t take them back.

The polarized climate of opinion in the United States, especially surrounding the presidential election and the ensuing political divisions, has been contentious. And much of it comes through social media. We have all seen the lack of civility and reasonable discourse in the arena of public debate.

For too many people, their side is the only side in every difference of opinion, it seems. While that’s bad enough, the attacks that are launched from one side against the other reflect what appears to be hatred. And when those opponents sometimes confront each other in person in protests, for example, it can become violent.

The pastor of my church last Sunday spoke about controlling the tongue (our words, whether spoken or written) in his sermon based on the Bible’s Book of James, Chapter 3, in which the writer compares the tongue to a horse’s bit, the rudder of a ship and a spark that starts a wildfire.

The Bible, whether you believe it is the word of God or not, is filled with wisdom that teaches peaceful coexistence and charitable interactions between people — teachings such as not letting unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful and beneficial in building up others. Or getting rid of bitterness, rage, slander and malice.

Our pastor pointed out some principles behind controlling the tongue. One point was that we should not underestimate the good our words can accomplish, such as saying things that build up others: encouragement, sympathy, helpful advice, genuine compliments. Conversely, he said we should not underestimate the damage words can do. The sticks and stones of criticism, disrespect, slander and malice do, indeed, cause pain. These are the kinds of words coming from tongues across the country today that are contributing to the bitter divisiveness that we are experiencing.

The key to controlling your tongue, the pastor stated, is in your heart.

And that, I believe, is what’s behind the split in our land today — there are too many out there whose hearts are hardened against principles that point toward loving your fellow man.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.