No, that’s not the sound of a microphone hitting the floor, a la Kobe Bryant or Barack Obama (YouTube it if you will). It’s the sound of Thomas Kelly’s head crashing into the concrete after he was coward-punched one Saturday night in Sydney’s Kings Cross in 2012. The impact left the 18-year-old with horrific brain injuries; he passed away two days later.
Four years on and the Kelly family experienced another tragedy recently, with Thomas’s younger brother, Stuart, taking his own life in his Northern Beaches home. A suicide would seem to imply there was no foul play at work, but there was.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, close friends of the 18-year-old described how he was the victim of “bullying, torment and endless hate mail” for his family’s campaigns against drug and alcohol violence, which led to revised lockout laws for licensed premises in New South Wales. Stuart’s parents were also abused online, with one blogger going as far as calling his father a “media whore” and accusing his mother of “cashing in on her child’s death”. No fists were involved but don’t be fooled—for the Kelly family this was still a beating.
Stuart’s death was sad—tremendously sad—yet hardly surprising given the abuse he had to endure. Words are dangerous. I think this quote sums it up nicely: “This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue” (James 3:7, The Message).
The reality is words can “pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18), and sometimes all it takes is a single thrust to kill.
“Idiot.” “Loser.” “Fool.” “Failure.”
These are some of the mild ones. I could asterisk many other things people label each other. One word—just like one punch, one lie or one affair—is enough to destroy lives.
Yet a single word can also be a “tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4) and bring healing.
“Thanks.” “Sorry.” “Beautiful.” “Amazing.” “Hello.” “Yes.”
Ruthie Lindsey says, “if you see something beautiful in someone, speak it”. Don’t stay silent. Use your words to lift people up.
Words can pierce like swords but the tongue is more like a hammer. It can be used as a weapon to destroy or a tool to build. We just need to use it properly.
“Let your speech always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6).
Note one word in particular: ALWAYS. No breaks or buts. In other words, speak love or shut up.
(Now that one was a mic drop.)