Several years ago just after my younger
brother graduated from High School he and some friends went to
celebrate the 4th of July by boat on the Snake River in
Montana. It was a gorgeous summer day, friends were plenty, the
water was cool and refreshing, life was literally in the palm of his
hands. He was an outstanding baseball pitcher with college ball on
the horizon and many dreams to be lived.
His friends pulled the boat up to a cliff wall
and all the kids started climbing 50-60 feet up to the ledge. One by
one they started jumping off into the water, doing what kids do,
having a good time. As my brother started climbing up to the ledge
he felt a feeling of doom. He felt a feeling to turn back. He felt
a feeling that he should not be jumping in the river. Standing 6’4”
he was a big boy, liked to play “tough” and show off. One by one
each friend safely jumped down into the river and when it was his
turn to jump he felt another prompting, “do not jump”. His
friends started calling him names, telling him not to be a chicken,
just to jump.
Finally, after much hesitation, he gave
into the peer pressure and jumped, feet first 50 feet down to the
open river below. As he was in descent something happened. The wind
picked up and turned his 6’4” body sideways. My brother could do
nothing as he fell…impending doom upon him. He hit the water below
right on the back of his neck. The impact broke his neck, a clean
break, right at the T-1 vertebrae.
He went deep, very deep into the water,
however could not come back up. You see, his arms were not working,
the impact had paralyzed him. His friends from up above, noticing
that he was not surfacing, jumped in after him and brought him up to
the boat. Luckily he had not lost his life, but he did break his
neck, and for years had intense recovery. Now fifteen years
later, he still suffers from that one poor choice. That choice to jump when he
should not have.
How many of us “break our own necks”
on a daily basis? I have seen it time and time again. Promptings of
the Spirit go out the door to peer pressure and momentary happiness.
Recently I have seen it in my own family by gossip and talking about
each other and dear friends in negative ways. This is so hurtful, not only to
ourselves, but to the people we talk about.
There is never an act that we make here
on this earth that is without consequence. If I put a pan of
brownies into my mouth it can seem perfectly harmless…until ten
pounds start to settle. Likewise, if I say something hurtful to a friend,
about a friend or even someone I do not like– that too will have a
consequence. Those consequences can take years, even a life-time
to mend. The effects of such damage can linger on in communities,
churches, and effect many facets of our lives. You see, what we put
out into this world comes back around to us multiplied. It is the law
of attraction, it is the law of physics, it cannot be denied.
My hope for my children is that they
will not “break their own necks” by saying hurtful things about
others. In the long run that gossip doesn’t matter. That moment of
feeling “cool” because you know something someone else doesn’t
will soon be over. What is left will be people unable to trust
you, people then talking about you, and as it comes completely around
in time…you feeling horrible about yourself. Things like
that will eventually make you feel embarrassed, empty, sad and miserable inside.
Just like my brother sinking down in the depths of the Snake River paralyzed, you too can paralyze your own or someone else’s growth, freedom, and future by the harmful effects of gossip. To think, it all can be avoided by choosing not to do it in the
first place. By not walking up to that ledge, by staying down where
love and safety surround you, and by listening to that still small voice.