The Dangerous Word Hastily

The Deacon's Bench logo
 on January 12, 2024

Hastily is an adverb from the word haste. Hastily, according to the Oxford Language dictionary, means “with excessive speed or urgency, hurriedly”. An NRSV Bible concordance entitled Exhaustive Concordance by Dr. Bruce M. Metzger indicated “hastily” is used six times in the Bible. The noun from which it comes, haste, is used much more frequently. A common example is in Luke 1:39, where we are told that Mary set out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth after her encounter with the Archangel, Gabriel.

Acting hastily or in haste can be a good thing. A middle-aged man who experiences chest pains with pain running down his left arm should immediately take low dose aspirin and call 911. Sometimes we must act hastily but in this modern age it can have sad consequences.

As I compose this article, the tragedy of the Middle East and particularly between Israel and Gaza is still unfolding. People are angry, frightened, and upset. Many of these emotions are common reactions to this type of tragedy. However, to act hastily in respect of one’s feelings can have tragic consequences.

The internet, email, and other modern communication methods, such as X (formerly known as Twitter) allow us to quickly respond to events and enable us to express our feelings. All we must do is type out and press the button and the email is sent. It could be something the entire world will see, and it will, as I understand, remain there forever.

There was a time when we had to make a phone call, speak to someone directly, or send that ancient document called a letter. Sending a letter meant we either had to type it or write, put in an envelope, and stamp it, and then mail it. It sounds tedious but it took time. My mother advised me that when I was writing an angry letter to do so, but put it aside for 24 hours and then decide whether to send it. We can save that angry email in as a draft, but it is too easy not to do so.

I had the honour of serving as a deputy judge of the small claims court for 30 years and recently had to retire when I reached 75. Several years ago, the deputy judges formed a voluntary association called Ontario Deputy Judges Association and set up a Listserv. The list serve helps us share information about difficult cases and helps us all come up with solutions. It is also a place to share our frustrations and help each other with solutions.

Although I am now retired, I still monitor the Listserv and have been able to render assistance to my former colleagues. The recent tragic events of October 7 deeply affected several members of the Listserv. Some of them are Jewish and have parents or family members who are Holocaust survivors. Unfortunately, one of the deputy judges, over wrought with what had happened, posted a very unfortunate commentary. This person later apologized but the damage was done. One of the deputy judges in particular was very hurt.

The word hastily does not appear often in the Bible as I have indicated. In the Book of Sirach, c. 28, v. 11, the following appears: “A hasty quarrel kindles a fire, and a hasty dispute sheds blood”.

I know my colleague now deeply regrets what was done. But it has caused real difficulties. It has reminded me not to act in haste or hastily unless it is absolutely necessary. In most cases it is better to pause and spend time in prayer or with God. After some reflection we can decide to hit send or delete.

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