Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Words that Destroy

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.  And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.  Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:29-32 (NLT)
From the very first time I went online (in 1996) to the present day, I have observed (as you certainly have), the growing ugliness of human anger openly-expressed at other humans, particularly on blogs, Facebook exchanges and other forms of communication.  The volume is increasing exponentially – both the sheer amount of abusive language, as well as the decibel level.  People seem to want to outshine one another as they take mean and hurtfulness to new levels. 
And towards what end is all this vitriol and aggression?  I imagine not a happy one!  At the very least we separate ourselves from one another with war words.
A blog, or Facebook tug-of-war can be (often is) a place for unleashing frustration. And that is perhaps, one reason why the angry words fly with such abandon – it gives relief to stifled lives that are stuffed-full with pent-up anger.  The source of said anger is grist for another day’s mill.
So, back to the main subject – words can destroy.  And often they do.
Everyone who is old enough to tie his shoes has experienced the power of words to hurt; many of us have been cut deeply by words flowing from mouths that had formerly professed friendship, even love.
Some caustic words can stay lodged in a person’s spirit for a lifetime.
But there are also words that heal!
While writing the first portion of today’s devotion I took a break for breakfast.  (I was stuck for how to put what I felt about all this into words; besides, the dogs were letting me know it was time to go out).
After breakfast I browsed Facebook for a few moments before getting back to the desk.  God provided the words through my friend, Anna Murdock, who posted this gem that illustrates just exactly what I wanted to say:
On my morning's drive to work (was stopped at an intersection) ... 
I saw an Asian man walking down the street, passing by a young black guy (maybe in his late teens) who was bringing in his curbside trash bin. The Asian man was pointing and yelling racial obscenities at the young man. He would walk a few feet in the road, stop and point again. Again, the racial obscenities flew from his mouth. I lowered my window to listen. It seemed important to not turn my head away from this. The young black guy was yelling back at the man. No, he wasn't yelling racial slurs or obscenities. He yelled, "Black people are good people. You should get to know us!" The man turned and continued on his walk, away from the young guy. I continued on my drive to work being grateful that I could hear this young man's response above the other man's voice. The young man is right, you know.[2]
What a stark night and day contrast of words laid side by side; the one man had words which destroy and the other speaking words of healing.  The destroyer was slinging spears of anger, while the healer offered arms of reconciliation. 
For followers of Jesus Christ there is a profound and compelling lesson here; if we would be, as St Francis of Assisi[3] urged, instruments of God’s peace, we must learn when assaulted by words or worse, to offer what Jesus offered…the other cheek.
It’s been said that the worst thing you can lead with is your chin…but I can think of no other way to turn the other cheek if you want to stay in the conversation in any meaningful, constructive way.
It’s called “vulnerability” and it’s what healing is all about in the human family.

For You Today

Considering the importance of words, today might be a good day to put into practice what my Mother told me one day:  think before you speak, Russell.

[1] Title Images:  Man: Jessica Flavin, London, England, via Wikimedia Commons  Woman: By Lara604, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Anna Murdock, post on Facebook, April 7, 2015 (used with permission).  (See Anna’s blog “Pewponderings” here)
[3] The Prayer of Saint Francis, also known as Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

No comments:

Post a Comment