The two men happen to come face to face in the bathroom. One was Edward Health, a young member of Parliament. The other was a politician and newspaper publisher, Willian Beverbrook. Just a few days earlier Beverbrook had published a rather insulting editorial on Heath. Now happening upon each other in the bathroom, Beverbrook broke the awkward silence, “My dear chap, I’ve been thinking it over and I was wrong. Here and now, I wish to apologize.” “Very well,” Heath replied, “But the next time, I wish you’d insult me in the bathroom and apologize in your newspaper” (Today in the Word, October 1, 1993).
It’s frightening how easy it is to exaggerate, blow out of proportion, misrepresent, misjudge, and inflate a situation. Coupled with people’s bad habits of gossip, slander, and abusive speech, it’s no wonder our words can be so damaging. We would be well served to take the admonishing Heath gave to Beverbook. Particularly since it is a rather biblical concept.
When we have an issue with someone, or even if we just need to clarify our facts, it’s always best to go directly to the person and privately settle the matter. This applies to those who need to be taught religiously (Acts 18:26). It applies to those who are in sin (Matthew 18:15). It even applies to private issues between you and someone else (Matthew 5:23-24).
Public forums are never the right place to address private issues. We shouldn’t do it in worship. We shouldn’t do it in the classroom. We certainly shouldn’t do it in the social media microphone. Slamming someone’s character is at an all-time level of easiness (which is why cyberbullying now exists). Once it’s out in the open, it’s nearly impossible to contain who’s ears it will reach.
Let’s not result to methods of public shaming, inflaming, and depreciating. Instead, let’s use soft, private, and encouraging words (Proverbs 15:1; Hebrews 13:3). Doing so might make us a new friend. Doing so might result in the saving of a soul. Doing so, at the very least, will display the bright light of a person who is living like the Son (Matthew 5:14-16). This will improve any situation.