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Sticks and Stones . . .

My country is again in shock over a public violence tragedy. A lot of discussion is taking place in the media and Internet about the cause of such actions and potential triggers. I am saddened that such events harm innocent people and that it is manipulated to bolster the agendas of media and political spokespeople. The fear of further events feeds the need for control and safety. During times of national stress laws and rules are sometimes changed that later are not welcomed as long-term improvements for the life of citizens.

I view all of the above as signatures of the enemy of our souls. Violence, deception, coercion, and abusiveness in any form, reeks of his tactics to erase the imprint of God on humanity. My point and passion is for individual responsibility about what comes out of our mouths, keyboards and pens. This is the bottom common denominator — what kind of language do I use and encourage? What outcome do I wish to influence? When my children were young, I often reminded them that it was not OK to express hate toward anyone, however, using emotive words was preferable: “I am angry with you…I don’t want to be near you right now,” etc.

I have not gotten “over” the widespread and accepted public use of the F-word, or F-bomb. The later descriptor itself seems to imply a verbal act of terrorism. Some say that the word has changed and its power is deflated by widespread acceptance. Yet after years of working with victims of abuse, I still view such words — usually reserved for moments of anger, disgust or shame — as acts of verbal violence. The exact terminology represents sexual actions of force intended to violate, harm or humiliate. Not to be confused with the most intimate form of shared vulnerability through committed caring, trust and respect.

Some say I am just too sensitive when I complain that it still hurts my ears and heart to overhear small children, teenagers in casual public conversation, or programs and movies on my own television, emit that violent word that represents such abuse or condemnation. The intent voiced is often the same — to shock, annoy or impress others with one’s contempt for those in ear-shot. And the very people who worry about how public discourse or images in the media might incite others to acts of violence, are often complacently using violent words in their own offices, meetings, schools and homes.

Words matter. They are powerful symbols with meaning. Many cultures throughout history have used colorful and specific names for their children that might set a blessing or tone for a person’s life. Jesus Christ was called the Word in John 1:1,2 (NIV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Back in Genesis God employed the Word and spoke acts of creation for our world. Solomon, the wisest man to live, devoted many verses about words in Proverbs: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

Human words are capable of damaging the peace and dignity that God created. Yet I am confident that God will have the last word.

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

1. What have you noticed about your own internal language after being exposed to media that allows cursing language?

2. Jesus was very specific in his language and labeling of those who misrepresented God and his kingdom. What do you believe he modeled for us with his language?

Karen Spruill writes from Orlando, Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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