Want to make a positive change in your world, today?
It’s fast, it’s easy — okay, so it’s not necessarily socially convivial — but it involves nothing more than saying a simple sentence, along the lines of,
“Wow. That was an insensitive, hurtful comment. My mother always taught me not to make pointed statements about a person’s physical appearance, because that’s the way they’re born and there’s nothing they can do about it.”
I just finished a phone conversation with someone meaningful in my life who mentioned that, at work the other day, her manager blurted out,
“Your nose has a funny crook to it. It makes you look like an elf.”
And because this was the victim’s employer, the person meaningful to me couldn’t defend herself without, well, losing her job.
Straight Shooters, Shooting off Their Mouths
Through the years, I’ve encountered people like this, who pride themselves on being honest, open, straight-shooters who speak the truth without fear, but quite frankly, the only shooting involved has to do with their mouth, which, if you’ll pardon my making a personal observation, is far, far too big.
When they call themselves Christians, it’s worse, because not only do they put a spiritual spin on the uncontrolled outbursts of their tongue, they rarely get attacked back, because the people to whom they speak the truth in lack of love are often Christians themselves, who for the oddest reason feel it would be rude, insensitive, and un-Christian to speak out.
But my friends, when we don’t speak out, these people smash forward into other’s lives, causing collateral damage of the soul, and no matter how many times you invoke the name of Jesus, it doesn’t mitigate the harm done by saying,
“Someone with legs your size could be a runner — that is muscle, isn’t it? Or is it fat? I guess if it’s fat, you could lose weight and then you’d be in real shape.”
People Say Dumb Things
Don’t scoff — people say the dumbest things, and that they don’t mean to isn’t justification for not letting them know that they’ve been insensitive, insulting, boorish, and scurrilous — whether or not it’s against us, or someone else.
Indeed, when the insult is directed to another person, it would be kind, on our part, to stand up and for the afflicted party, who may be standing, tongue tied, and not quite knowing what to say. We could step in and comment,
“That statement sounds hurtful. Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but it’s unkind.” and see what the offending, and offensive, person, does.
“We all stumble in many ways,” James tells us in James 3: 2. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”
We Don’t Mean to Be Hurtful, but . . .
I understand this. I’ve said dumb things, thoughtless things, cruel things, nasty things, impatient things — and sometimes I’ve been called out on it, and other times I’ve realized, to my horror hours later, what I had done. And undoubtedly there are too many times when somebody didn’t say something, but grieved, lacerated by my insensitivity. I would much prefer that they, or another, had confronted me, and my mouth.
Intentional or not, what we say affects how people feel, and in a society that degenerates into increasing discourtesy, it is time that we speak up. It is not counter to Christianity to point out to someone that what they just said is inappropriate.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3: 9-10)
James is discussing deliberately harmful language here, but I’m going to stretch the point and say three things:
1) If you have a tendency to speak without thinking, work on this. NEVER make personal comments about factors over which the listener has no control.
2) If someone says hurtful things to you, consider not letting them get away with it. It is not rude to stand up for yourself.
3) If someone says hurtful things to other people, Speak up. You may be defending one of the least of these.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write about living real life as a Christian.
More than anyone, Christians should be free to seek out, explore, and speak the truth. Ideally, wherever Christians gather, this should be a safe place for any person to walk into, and no one should feel obligated to don a mask so that they can fit in.
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