140 characters. A short conversation by any standard.
Yet with 140 characters—as in any communication medium—the power to build others up or break them down lies in a few intentional keystrokes before hitting SEND.
New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson has been a fixture in NBA headlines for decades, both as a player and 11-time championship winning coach, and in recent years as the lead front office executive of the Knicks.
Lately, however, Jackson’s social media presence has made news of its own.
Whether designed to motivate his star forward or simply to mull over his own displeasure, Jackson’s twitter comments this season have—directly and indirectly—openly critiqued and questioned Carmelo Anthony’s heart and hustle.
Jackson, having been graced with the the likes of NBA greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, knows how to motivate and cohesively build a championship team around a key figure.
He further understands how a star’s mentality, especially when the game is on the line, sets the tone for teammates.
However, Jackson’s communication approach seems to be more destructive than beneficial for Anthony who, though blessed with rare basketball talent in his own right, has yet to satisfy Gotham media, fans, or organizational leadership as the Knicks have regressed to 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
But Jackson’s words for Anthony are simply another opportunity to reflect on the importance of the words we choose to direct at others everyday—whether in face-to-face or typed form.
Regardless of new technology opportunities, the way we communicate (or don’t communicate) still has the potential to do the greatest harm—or good. James 3:5 says, “The tongue, even though among the smallest of all the members of the body, makes great boasts” and, like a spark in the forest, ultimately has the power to light a life on fire.
Proverbs 18:21 further illuminates James’ contention by suggesting that the power of life and death is contained in the words that we use.
Just as a parent can do great benefit or harm to a child with the words that they speak into their lives, the same is true for a coach and a player or an employer and employee or a wife and a husband, as humans have a natural tendency to either live up to or down to the expectations and words spoken over them.
Prisons are full of the byproducts of hurtful communication. Words have a way of wounding at a much deeper level than the surface of our lives, often creating an anger that manifests itself destructively.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” sounds good, but it couldn’t be more practically false.
Sometimes words NOT spoken can be just as harmful. Over the course of a lifetime, not hearing “I love you,” “You are special and matter to me,” and “I am so proud of you” takes a toll.
According to Genesis 1:1 when God literally breathed the universe into reality, everything that has ever existed—galaxies, our planet, the specific beauties of Earth, humans themselves—trace their origin to the power of a spoken word. After conception, could it be that nothing is more intrinsic to life and death than the power of words?
Phil Jackson can do whatever he wants to try motivating Anthony or any of the players on the Knicks roster, but here as always, remembering the adage that “You get more flies with sugar than with vinegar” might actually be helpful.