The old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is quite a brave statement.
After all, we are human and however stoic we may appear there are times when we’d have to be made of stone if we aren’t affected by harsh and unwarranted criticism.
By today, it’s not so much sticks and stones but social media where in animosity the net provides a means of nastiness and threats for those who do not have the courage to admit to their warped intentions.
Many politicians have to endure such insulting and hurtful vitriol and this is wrong. In the summer, a statement made by a political enthusiast that he would get up an hour earlier every day to have more time to hate Margaret Thatcher had the alarm bells ringing for me.
The whole Brexit debate has brought us to an altogether lower level of political rhetoric when the Prime Minster was told to ‘bring a noose’ to a meeting with her fellow Parliamentarians and that the ‘knives’ were out which would see her end. President Trump has added to this with his arrogant and often personal attacks on his opponents. Firing up crowds at recent midterm campaign rallies causing deep concern for the future of political co-operation in the USA.
The Apostle Paul was often harsh and unmerciful in his words of condemnation of the early Christian believers. Such was his hatred that he approvingly stood over the stoning of Stephen the first Christian Martyr. He had been advised by his superiors to cool down but his single-minded determination to turn his words of hatred to deadly action was seemingly unstoppable.
However, on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a great light. He met with Jesus – what a change. So much so that a man of hatred and contempt was able to write some years later – ‘I may be able to speak the languages of men and of angels, but I have not love I am nothing’.
He went on to speak of love being patient and kind, never haughty, selfish or rude. Words which became the basis of one of the greatest declarations of democracy which we need to re-capture in our day. ‘I may totally disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it’ The Apostle Paul would have approved.