Screenshot taken from YouTube Inside Edition
Written By Jasmine Koh, Singapore
Is telling someone to commit suicide a crime? According to the verdict of a landmark case in US, it is. For urging her boyfriend to take his own life via text messages that led to his suicide in 2014, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week.
In dozens of text messages and phone calls, Carter had encouraged Conrad Roy III, who had a history of depression, to kill himself. And when the 18-year-old had last-minute jitters after filling his truck with poisonous carbon monoxide gas using a generator, Carter even ordered Roy by phone to “get back in”. It was these final words, said Massachusetts judge Lawrence Moniz, that constituted “wanton and reckless conduct”.
Many legal experts had expected Carter to be cleared of the charges, and were shocked by the verdict, which sent a strong message that encouraging someone to kill himself can be considered as severe as the act of killing. Some have denounced the verdict as unconstitutional, saying it violates free speech protections.
Whatever we may think of the judge’s decision, what we can probably agree on is this: words have power. The Bible notes this too—God spoke the world into being through His words; Jesus healed many just by speaking through to them; and we are reminded of how words can build up or tear down (Proverbs 12:6). In Roy’s case, Carter’s words clearly played a part in destroying his life.
We need to consider the weight of our words and to control our tongues. James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (NASB, emphasis mine) .
The comparison of the tongue to a fire is apt: it encapsulates the perverse, powerful nature of this tiny part of the body. Just as a fire that starts at one part of the body can burn up the entire being, misusing the tongue can bring about massive and dire consequences on our lives.
That’s why the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29, urges believers to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.
May we learn to be mindful to speak words worthy of Christ, and to use our words to show God’s love and saving grace in our daily lives.
Would you make this your prayer? “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)