Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Power of a Word

A few years ago, the lesson in our small group was from the book of James...on the power of the tongue. Our teacher asked, "what are some words we should never say?" 

Someone piped up first thing, and mentioned a certain racial slur. They didn't say the word...we all just knew. We all agreed that we should never use ANY racial slurs. The teacher asked, "what else?" 

One class member said, "well, I'll tell you one we can't use, and it just burns me up..." and then she said it. She said the word. I'm not gonna write it out. I can't. I won't. It's an intellectual slur directed at people like my son. We call it the R-word.  

She said, "I am so sick of the PC police telling us what we can and cannot say. I believe IN CALLING A SPADE A SPADE." 

I felt all the eyes on us. 

And here's the thing: we had been in this class for 2 years. They knew us...they knew the make-up of our family. 

She went on, "it's a 'medical term,' ya know. We tell our kids not to say it, and when they do...they get in trouble in class. A teacher can get in BIG trouble for saying it...people can lose their friends, jobs and reputations for saying this word, and it's just ridiculous." 

My heart was about to beat out of my chest. I knew my face was red. Jim was looking down. 

She continued..."the reason this word is upsetting to some people, is that we've given it too much power. By making it taboo, we've created this big 'thing' about it, so that now kids want to say it, just like they want to say all the cuss words." 


She said that people have t-shirts saying we should get rid of this word (I have one)...and stickers and rubber bracelets saying we should get rid of this word (yep, have those, too)...and that women get on their "mommy blogs' and write about it (well, now she's just gone too far!). 

She said she is "so thankful" when she hears kids call each other this word...because it "lessens the power of it." 

(ummm...no it doesn't). 

I thought I was going to jump out of my skin. My face was flushed and I was shaking. Everyone was nervously looking around at each other, and at us. I think I asked Jim if I could respond, not because I needed his permission...but because I wanted to make sure I wasn't dreaming. 

I wasn't

See, when you have a son like mine and he comes home from school saying that someone called him that word, and told him that he had a "messed up brain"...I mean, don't even talk to me about the power of a word, unless you've experienced something like that with one of your own kids. 

Because experiences like that either cloud my judgment...or enhance it. 


I would like to say that others in our class spoke up in defense of the defenseless...except no one did. 

I'm sure they didn't know what to say. I just feel like there had to have been a way that others could've spoken up, and it would not have been judgmental on this lady, and her husband...but, at the same time, it would've been encouraging to us. I don't know. 

I pray that if I'm ever in that situation again...that I'm never in that situation again.


But, really.

I pray that if I'm ever in a similar situation again, God would give me boldness to speak LIFE...and the tenderness to speak it in love. 

There are millions of words in the English language. Why would we choose to use hurtful and divisive words when we can choose words that can encourage and heal? 

This whole thing was more than a little disheartening. It was a lesson to me that sometimes we will stand alone, and that's okay. And that there are times when we should speak up ("speak up for those who have no voice..." Proverbs 31:8), and times when we should hold our tongues. 

So I told the lady, "I completely disagree with everything you just said." 

I stated my thoughts in a (relatively) calm and restrained way, even tho I was about to have a nervous breakdown. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, because MARTY DOESN'T LIKE CONFRONTATION. 

Jim and I walked out of that class feeling discouraged...and burdened. I begged him to let us leave that class, and go to a different one. He said, "no." And every day leading up to the next Sunday, I would ask again, "pleeeeeease can we go to a different class?" And, like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," he'd emphatically say, "I'm.not.leaving.my.wing-man." Ha! 

Actually, he said, "we are not leaving this class this way." 

In the end, it was all...okay. She came to our home, and apologized if she had hurt our feelings. I will never agree with her point of view. Like, ever. She will likely never agree with mine. But I forgave her, and neither one of us harbored ill-will toward each other. 

Seven months later, Jim and I had to switch to a different class because of a scheduling issue with Joshua's small group, but that move was on God's timing, not ours. 

I would never post this if there was a chance it would hurt anyone from this class. The couple in this story now live in another state, and while I am real-life friends with some of the people from this class, I'm not Facebook friends with them. 

My intention is not to bash anyone or any church. I love church. I love my church. I think Christians should be in church. But just because we're in church doesn't mean we are perfect. In fact, far from it. 

Church is a place where we go to worship God with others. It's where we go when we realize we can't do life on our own...that we need the support of a community of believers. It's where we go to learn more about Jesus...and to develop our relationship with Him; where we go to prepare ourselves for the trials that come our way...and to learn ways to share our faith. 

I just wanted to share how one negative comment can overshadow 10 positive ones. And to show that, even in the one place we hope to find hope and support...we sometimes don't. Christians aren't happy all the time, and churches are full of hurting people. Many times, we don't know the burdens they carry, or the ones placed on them by others. 

A church can be full of many wonderful people, and yet a few negative words from one person can be so hurtful. They remind me that we are gonna fail each other...we are. But God never fails.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

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