Weekend Thought Malc’ Halliday: Words can do so much good - or a lot of damage
I was 16 years old and coming back from an event I had been to with my youth group. Our school caretaker, Brian, who had also been there joined us as we were walking home.
"How long have you been a Christian?" he asked me.
"Six months," I replied with all the confidence of youth and the sense that I had made a commitment that was really lasting.
The wind was knocked out of my sails when he replied: "Well when you have matured a bit, get your hair cut."
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I knew another Brian in my teenage years. He taught me RE. More than that he was a great source of wisdom, support, insight and encouragement as I sought to make sense of what being a Christian was all about. You will not be surprised to learn that it is this Brian that, decades later, I am still in touch with. Indeed he is one of the people that, were I facing a crisis or needed advice, I would turn to without hesitation.
When I worked at a local radio station in the Midlands the other presenters used to call me Brian. It was one of the secretaries that started it. I asked her one day why she had done this.
"I don't know," she said, "I just thought you look like a Brian."
I am not sure what that means except that when I think back to the two Brians who I remember from my school days I hope it is the teacher and not the caretaker that I most resemble.
It is so easy with a few words to do damage. At the same time our words can build up and encourage. In the New Testament the Apostle James talks about the tongue being powerful. He writes, "The tongue is a fire," and many of us have seen the devastating damage that uncontrolled fire can do.
We will, I suspect, all get the opportunity this weekend to speak to others. We will have the chance to be a "Brian" to somebody. Let's just pray that we get it right.
Malc' Halliday is the centre manager of the Christian Resources Project Plymouth firstname.lastname@example.org