I confess to being a bit of a prankster in younger years & still play the odd trick on friends & family. I seriously disturbed one flat mate, of a nervous disposition, with my nighttime frights. Early days in the Irvine manse had voicemail messages confusing callers with: “Sadly the answering machine is not working & you’re through to the ‘Fridge-Freezer’, please leave your message after the beep!” I soon realised that my student ways could get me into hot water as a fully fledged minister. Grieving mourners in distress calling their local Rev don’t need the distraction of a prank.
I had sympathy for the Sydney radio DJ hoax callers Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who in 2012, claiming to be The Queen, tricked their way past nurse Jacintha Saldanha to reach princess Kate’s ward, to glean personal information about her condition. At the time, Michael Christian couldn’t imagine bettering such a career-enhancing coup, but tragically days later he appeared on TV, crushed that this prank-call had led to the suicide of the ‘pranked nurse’, her children now motherless. Greig & Christian were taken off air and counseled.
This is a sobering & salutary reminder that, while our tongues can build up & bring much good, they can also cause carnage. James writes, “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (MSG)
I love to joke & laugh with people, but it’s important to be sensitive to the feelings & needs of others too. James goes on to say: “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” (MSG)
While M Christian sailed on undaunted in life & career, Mel Greig hit depression, cyber bullying and further ill health. Fortunately she’s now through these storms a stronger person and intent on using her radio role as a platform for good. An active ambassador for Endometriosis Australia, a painful condition that still carries stigma for many women, she runs public health campaigns to encourage women to get their mammogram and be checked for lumps; and she launched a well-received annual, national ‘Troll Free Day’, to fight cyber-bullying.
Praise God some good has come from such tragedy. Pranks & tricks can be great fun, but it’s wise to remember that God gives us humans two ears & only one mouth for good reason.