There it is in bold print on the boxes of cigarettes that sit on roadside stalls or supermarket shelves:
From Surgeon-General’s warning to exorbitant pricing and extremely graphic poster images, efforts to rein in smoking habits abound. We have heard more about the dangers of second-hand smoke in the last 10 years than we heard in the 20 years prior, and the fight is on to give a voice to those who have no voice – children and incapacitated elderly, who are usually unable to choose what takes place in their space.
There is, however, another kind of smoking that kills.
It ruins reputations, elevates blood pressure levels and slices through long-standing friendships like a hot stainless steel knife through butter. There is even a second-hand variety – the kind you encounter in waiting rooms, grocery store queues, public transport, or, God forbid, [whispers] church. This kind is not easily avoided because it encroaches on your turf without your consent, and you are backed into a corner because you have matters at hand that require immediate attention; thus, fleeing would be inconvenient.
‘Gossiping Kills’ and where the smoke of gossiping abounds, its diabolical twin – Negativity – abounds much more (to borrow a little KJV flavour).
This is hardly a modern phenomenon. So ingrained is this habit in the human psyche that there is an entire chapter of Scripture dedicated to addressing the evils of the tongue.
Unlike cigarette smoking, its audible counterpart finds acceptance the world over, for it is socially-accepted evil. There exists no global effort to rein it in for the sake of the next generation. We have treated casualties without addressing the root cause, and there are no graphic posters or warnings because you know what they say: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but...
“Words are harmless,” they say. They who slice with their tongues but have no experiential knowledge of what it feels like on the other side. “I see nothing wrong with what I said,” say the ones who rip their fellow men to shreds in the presence of their children. “I’m just concerned,” say the ones who express their concern to everyone except the one they are – ostensibly – concerned about.
Those who give ear to gossip could stand to hear my late mother’s warning:
“Same dog weh bring bone cyarri it!” (Literally: The same dog that brings the bone will carry it)
Loosely interpreted, this ancient Jamaican proverb warns that those who bring you tales of others will likewise take your story to others. As one who has felt the consequences of ignoring that tiny bit of wisdom, I can testify – in retrospect – to the veracity of that statement.
The smoky cycle never ends and the world needs more men and women who are willing to draw the proverbial line in the sand for the benefit of the next generation. We need more adults who will stand in solidarity and give a voice to those who have no voice.
Influence is one thing that we all have. Our platforms may differ, but they are all likewise influential. We need to fight for our children’s right to a clean atmosphere. Stand up, stand out and refuse to allow the second-hand smoke of negativity to pitch a tent in your space.
Exude positivity and encourage those within your sphere of influence to do the same.
Give thanks, for where thanksgiving abounds negativity can find no place.
Take a stand and – if you already have – remain steadfast. The next generation will thank you.
*Journal entry dated 03 December 2013*