CHRISTIAN COMMENT Watch your language

Don’t some sections of the media love the moral high ground?

It was interesting to hear Danny Mills on Breakfast TV at the week-end. He’d been called in – as a concerned parent and as a former professional footballer – to comment on the ‘John Terry racist abuse’ story.

Mills was bred in the Leeds United school of hard knocks. Nothing to do with the money that some footballers do or do not get paid. [And, yes, I know that Drogba’s reported reason for signing with a Shanghai club has nothing to do with £1,000,000 per month.......]

No, the former England full-back was renowned for crunching tackles and tough defence. His opinions on what Terry did or did not say might, therefore, be seen as representing the ‘anything goes’ view of how to play the game.

But he’s also known as the father of three children, the last of whom was stillborn. The trauma that the family went through then had a big impact on Mills and he has done much to support other sufferers from Spina Bifida, the condition that appears to have afflicted that baby.

So the questions on the interview were focussed around not so much ‘Is Terry a racist?’ as ‘What do you think the effect of his language will be on impressionable youngsters?’ Unfortunately, the main point of agreement in the four day hearing was that John Terry did indeed use some pretty foul language.

Mills’s response was thoughtful. When asked whether all professional footballers used language like that, he said that, first, not all footballers were the same, that lots of matches were played without much swearing by players. Then, second, the language on the terraces was infinitely worse. And, three – bearing those supporters in mind and that every school playground was rife with swearing – it was parents’ responsibility to curb their children’s language. It wasn’t the job of the professionals playing on the pitch.

Danny Mills’ response was interesting because he recognised that we’re not entitled to blame others for what goes wrong. We are answerable for our own actions – and for our children’s up to a certain age. Apart from those children we might be parenting, the only person we can legitimately try to control is our self.

How can I say to you ‘Clean up your act,’ when there’re things that I do that I wouldn’t want anyone else to know about? How can I say ‘Let me point out and clear that speck of wood in your eye,’ when there’s the equivalent of a plank in mine? That’s Jesus’ metaphor, btw – but then he was a carpenter.

If we really don’t like Terry’s language or the attitudes it might indicate, let’s clear both – not just from the media but from inside ourselves too.

Nigel O’Dwyer lives and works, quite self-critically, in Worthing