Sticks and Stones

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When I was a little girl, I overheard my aunt describe me as being “built like a Mack truck.” This image has stayed with me my entire life, convincing me that I was large, fat, and ungainly. I have never considered myself slim or petite, despite wearing a size 4 and barely grazing the 5 foot 4 inch mark.

Such is the effect that words, casually tossed around, can have on a person’s psyche. As children, we may have said with bravado, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But deep inside, we could still be wounded by being called stupid, ugly, four-eyes, or any of the myriad insults other kids might hurl our way.

There are so many ways that friends, siblings, spouses, parents, and children can hurt one another with words. I remember how upset I got when my father said that something I believed was stupid. I know I have said things to my children that I later regretted, such as calling them little brats. My husband and I have also flung some choice epithets at each other over the years. And yes, it hurts when your teenager shouts in your face, “I hate you!”

Words can be the sharpest of weapons. We need to be judicious in our choice of them. As the Bible’s Book of James says, “The tongue is like a fire. It is uncontrollable, full of deadly poison.” (3:6,8)

Thinking before we speak may make the difference in how others see us and themselves. If doing so can save someone from a lifetime of hurt feelings, it’s well worth it.

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Above the Fray

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You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
-James 1:19

The other day I posted what I thought was a humorous dig by satirist Andy Borowitz on my Facebook page. It hit back at conservative accusations that President Obama does not love America. So I felt justified about the mud-slinging. On reflection, though, I decided to remove the post.

I thought about Pres. Obama himself and realized that he has always – at least publicly – stayed above the fray in attacks on his citizenship, religious beliefs, and patriotism. It is tempting, and all too easy, to call someone names or cast baseless aspersions at the person. More than ever, though, in this age of instant communication via the internet, it is important to heed the wise words from the Bible’s book of James.

Recently a Facebook friend has been posting information about a Bible study series called “Keep It Shut.” It is based on a book by Karen Ehman that encourages women to think before they speak and, in some cases, know when not to speak at all. Clearly, people are seeing the need to start taking the high road in our online (and offline) communications.

I am not advocating silence in the face of injustice. I am not saying people shouldn’t share their opinions and ideas on Facebook. But we could all stand to be a little more thoughtful in the way we communicate our point of view.

As the title of my blog indicates, I am quite opinionated and more than happy to share my opinions with everyone else. But I resolve to avoid ad hominem attacks and name-calling while doing so. I may still chuckle when I read a clever put down by Andy Borowitz, but I will think before I Share.