Red: Week 4 - Daily Reflections Monday, October 26, 2015
This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus. The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
This phrase, which is uniquely American, has been passed down through the years as a way for parents to reframe and diminish the effects of schoolyard bullying and name-calling for their children who've experienced it.
It first appeared in a periodical produced by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1862, and apparently was already a popular saying even before it was printed there.
It also happens to be completely and ridiculously wrong.
The truth of the matter is, words can hurt us. No matter how hard we try not to let them, when harsh words land on us they leave a mark.
When I was a kid I got picked on a bit because I am blind in one eye. It wasn't the being blind in one eye that landed me on the wrong side of teasing, it was the fact that my blind eye often developed a mind of its own, and would stare in directions that were quite the opposite of my other eye.
I didn't often get picked on because of it, but when I did it would sting more than I liked to admit.
A few years ago, some friends and family were good-naturedly ribbing me about not being able to see what was happening on my right hand side, which happens to be my "blindside." At first, I sort of chuckled along because what they were saying was actually really funny.
But suddenly something clicked inside of me and it stopped being humorous. I felt myself growing angry and defensive. I said some things I shouldn't have in the moment and instantly regretted it.
Later, after I'd had time to reflect on the incident, I realized that there was still a lot of pain that was lingering around from when I was a kid--pain that I had thought was completely in the past. It wasn't.
My family and friends had no idea what I was feeling, and thought they were just gently kidding me in love and with no malice at all. I was blindsided (no pun intended) by how much of that old hurt was still there.
Words do hurt. And sometimes the hurt lasts a long time.
And for that reason, I've had to repent more than once over things I've said in the past to hurt people. I've tried to make it right when I was able, but I've not always been able to reconnect with people I've injured. At the very least I try to speak my words of repentance out into the universe, trusting the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does to comfort and heal.
Getting back to that old aphorism: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."
The truth about sticks and stones is that they even though they break bones, the bones knit, the bruises heal. The bruising circumstances that occur over the course of our lifetime can be devastating, to be sure, I'm not trying to minimize their impact. But words can be lethal, and the pain can be long lasting.
If you are carrying around old hurts from words that have wounded you, I pray that you will be delivered from that pain. Turn it over to God, tell God about the pain, declare it to him, complain to him, cry to him--God can handle it.
If you have injured others with your words, make it right. If you can't connect with them to make it right in person, speak your grace and peace into the world, and trust God to heal.