According to the USAF Intelligence Targeting Guide, the term means:
“[the] unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment, or personnel, occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities. Such damage can occur to friendly, neutral, and even enemy forces".
When I think of Collateral Damage on a non-military level, I think of mistakes or wrongs that not only have affected myself, but others around me- they’re like the “ripple effect” One mistake can have a major impact on the people around us. Sometimes I think we feel our mistakes will only have a repercussion for us-but many times that is not true.
I personally don’t like to live in the past- it’s too painful. I praise our God who is my Deliverer- deliverance from painful mistakes that have forever altered my life- mistakes that only He can totally forgive me from and only He can totally forget happened. This is a very hard truth that I have to come to understand for my life. As Christians we are to forgive each other – we’re commanded to, but we can never totally forget- it isn’t possible to totally erase that part. God gives us the ability to see past the hurt and most of the time I don’t remember it unless I pull it from the shelves of my memory library intentionally.
Collateral Damage- it can be unintentional and intentional. When it’s unintentional, is it any less severe or painless as when it’s intentional? Both cause scars- both do damage, both can alter relationships, destroy families and friendships. I have regretfully said things in anger that as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wish I could snatch them right back. I can be SO quick tongued- that is not a welcomed attribute to my personality and that’s just a little something He’s still working on in me. I LOVE Proverbs, it has so many passages that speak to me:
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment”
Proverbs 10: 19-21
Collateral Damage- it can affect others and our spiritual realms as well as our physical ones. The Bible is very firm on where we stand when we offend our brother spiritually..
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Collateral Damage- to friendly, neutral or even our enemies. When we love someone and hurt them- wow- that really hurts us too. Love is such a tender emotion that has a wide sense of being. But what about when we don’t actually love someone and hurt them? Maybe we don’t even really like them but hurt them. Or what about the person you have in your life that you just wish you didn’t have - you know who I’m talking about… let’s be honest, we ALL have them.. When you do something to hurt them, do you enjoy it or do you regret it? Or let’s go one step farther still- our enemies. You might be saying “I don’t have anyone I really hate”…- do you? What about the little things we do, we might feel are innocent or come natural like “road rage” or maybe it’s a prejudice we have – someone of a different race, someone with a different social background, someone with a different religion…??? Just because we don’t actually say we “hate” someone doesn’t mean it can’t play out in our actions, after all, I’ve heard it said “Actions speak louder than words” and isn’t that so true!
As Christians, Collateral Damage should be kept to an absolute unintentional minimum. We should always be aware of our surroundings and who it could affect. When we have to correct- it should always be constructive and loving- never like dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. It shouldn’t be intentional or devastating. I know this will sound funny to some people but when I find myself at the point when I want to lash out and say something I know is going to be hurtful and wrong, a lot of people say “Count to 10”- I could count to 1000 and that wouldn’t work for me, so I sing. Yes SING- for some reason I find it difficult to sing and be angry at the same time. Try it sometime; it might just “defuse” you.