One of the things we enjoy doing as a family is to ride motorcycles off-road. Just outside of Gunnison, 8,000 acres has been set aside specifically for hikers, mountain bikers and motorcycling. Last week we spent two days riding and exploring the vast network of trails. One of the major reasons why we were able to enjoy riding in this part of Colorado is due to the success of a program begun by the US forest service in 1985 called “Tread Lightly.” Today this program is recognized as the sole-source service provider of education and training on how to be environmentally and socially responsible while using motorized and mechanized vehicles in the outdoors.
“Treading lightly” means that we ride only on established trails and roads. One of the worst things that a motorcycle rider can do in the high country of Colorado is to go off the trail and start tearing up the land. Doing this leaves scars that can take years to heal. Just think of the Oregon Trail—there are still ruts from that migration 150 years later.
I have often felt that people in ministry should be required to take a “tread lightly” training. The words we use have the power to heal and the power to scar.
As a child I remember learning the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I am not sure that there is any greater lie that we can teach our children. Broken bones can heal; words can leave scars that may never heal.
Unless you are a hermit, you have been scarred by your interactions with people. Some of those scars have come intentionally while others have been inflicted unintentionally. My hope is that those scars would used as teachings about how not to act rather than license to hurt.