The Heat of Response

We used to play this strange kid’s game called Smear The Goat. One kid would grab the football and try to avoid being tackled by the 6, 7, or 8 other kids chasing him. The outcome was never in doubt, and when tackled the football-carrying kid would go down with everyone else piled on top. The ball would squirt out and somebody else would pick it up and pretend he was Jim Brown for a few moments.

Whoever the goat was always got annihilated. We’d go to our different homes after that, all of us bruised a bit by being the target one or times.

That memory seemed a sorta’ picture of our battlefield these days. Anyone who opinions themself seems to, so to speak, have picked up the football and the others take aim at him/her. The radicalness or sensibility, impassioned plea or philosophical ponderings, age, race, or gender doesn’t seem to matter. You’ve uttered an idea or expressed a belief and whoever doesn’t agree with you is ready to initiate a gang tackle.

It’s confusing. Some folk have been condemned because of their silence and others have been tackled because of what they have said. There’s not a safety net of listening, but rather a flaming underneath us.

In the Book of James, known as the wisdom of the New Testament, this advice seems relevant for all of us in this day of quick tempers and tongues, and bad decisions. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

We get those confused in the chaos of our culture, becoming slow to listen and quick to speak and become angry.

In our Smear the Goat days we’d sometimes put the football down and go to Tommy’s house to eat ice cream bars together. In those moments away from our youthful battlefield, we’d listen, and we’d learn to love each other in unconditional ways.

selective focus close up photo of brown wilson pigskin football on green grass

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on

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