For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt: 12:34).
Have you ever uttered a word in jest or anger you immediately wished you could take back? I doubt there would be too many people throughout history who haven’t lived with such regrets, but when you are a public figure the attention garnered by such slip-ups are guaranteed to be magnified.
Whether you are a fan of AFL football or not, it would have been difficult to avoid the media backlash following comments made by television personality Eddie McGuire toward Indigenous player Adam Goodes last month.
Responses to McGuire’s comments, connecting Goodes to a current stage play, King Kong, ranged from accusations of racism to those defending it as “humorous Aussie banter”.
However, despite all the coverage received, whether from politician or person on the street, I failed to uncover any Scriptural references to the episode, albeit I believe Jesus’ wisdom in the words above hits the nail on the head.
My observations are not intended to add further to McGuire’s suffering, as I believe he is genuine in his remorse and in claims he had no intention of offending Goodes in any way, but it is to highlight the relevance of Jesus’ insight into the human condition.
McGuire is guilty of what I suspect most of us have been at some point – an insensitivity borne of our inability to connect to the reality of another’s pain.
I believe it is a spiritual deficiency rather than a personal or cultural one. I can still recall in primary school participating in and laughing at “jokes” about starving Africans, those with disabilities and others based on race or sexuality.
As we mature to adulthood, most of us become aware of the (in some cases) horror, crudity and indignity of such comments and edit them from our interactions.
But just how pure our intention is toward another is a matter between ourselves and God – which, I believe, is why Jesus left us with the above observation.
It is why we should be grateful for the words we spontaneously utter – those that have unconsciously bypassed our filter of social correctness – because these words can identify the hidden pockets of darkness within us.
Such exposure should never become a licence to self-condemn, but rather an opportunity to recognise where we stand on our journey toward perfection and to remind us that it is a goal we cannot attain without complete surrender to God.
We can attempt to rationalise regrettable remarks and attribute them to a “bad mood”, “a lack of sleep”, “a thoughtless moment” or a simple attempt at humour, but the reality is that any word not spoken in love is not God’s will and has been borne from the dark recesses of our hearts.
Even if we desire to walk in the shoes of another, our unique personalities, experiences and fallible nature can effectively prevent us from doing so.
It is why comments such as McGuire’s can be delivered in innocence, yet can cause real hurt to another.
Even when there is no intention of hurt, for Goodes, who has been the victim of racist bullying, an ‘offhand’ comment can cut deeply into a wound that McGuire has never experienced.
But what we can learn from these experiences, if we choose, is to gauge just how much darkness is living within us.
Whenever our comments cause hurt to another, whether intended or not, we can use the opportunity to discover what areas we need to expose to the light of Christ.
When Jesus asked us to “Love one another as I have loved you”, he knew that, despite our imperfection, it was an attainable goal.
Because Jesus was completely surrendered to his Father’s will, no darkness lived within his heart, so every word he uttered was generated by pure love – something we are not capable of in our fallen humanity.
However, by uniting ourselves to Christ and following his example of complete surrender, we allow him to become the bridge connecting us to one another.
If we are genuine in our desire to imitate Christ, then we must be willing to confront those secret chambers of darkness.
We need to give permission to God to expose them and when he does, we need to surrender them to him and allow our hearts to be purified.
“If anyone makes no mistakes in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also” (James 3:2).