Stones. We see them everywhere: stream beds, roadsides, driveways. We use them in landscaping. The smooth ones feel good in our hands. The rough ones, not so much. We search for the perfect flat stone to skip across the water when we toss it. Ancient people used them for tools.
Stones are not something we think about very much. They just sit there, being stones. They have their little uses, like the ones I mentioned up there. But, in the overall scheme of things, stones are not that important.
Or are they?
What happens when we hurl them at one another? Or, more precisely, what happens when we use words like stones, throwing them at each other, aiming to inflict the most damage, with deadly accuracy?
Perhaps we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We make some little comment, not knowing that the words we choose have a totally different meaning to us than they do to the person we speak them to. Unintentionally, the damage is done, and we don’t even know we’ve done it.
But sometimes, we know exactly what we’re doing. We choose our words very carefully, with the intention of doing maximum damage, and then we aim them at one another. And when they hit, they hit hard.
And we feel good. Admit it; you know it’s true.
What would happen if we started thinking about our words before they come flying out of our mouths? Ask ourselves this question: “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”
“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”
It’s easier to throw an “I`m sorry” or a “just sayin” after our hurtful words are spoken than it is to consider the impact those words are going to have and maybe, just maybe, keep them to ourselves.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
I’ve been talking about words, single words. Labels we put on ourselves and on each other, words that can seem harmless. Urban or rural. Northern or Southern. Introvert or Extravert. If we can hurt each other with words like these, what are we doing to each other when we start using emotionally-charged words? Liberal or conservative. Gay or straight. Christian or Muslim.
Just for fun, lets think about what happens when we go from throwing single words at each other to throwing ideologies at each other. We come from different backgrounds, different stations in life, different lifestyles, different levels of education. Single words can sting. Epistles can do permanent damage.
“I really put her in her place.”
“How can any one person be so stupid?”
“You don’t really believe that crap, do you? I thought you were smarter than that.”
I’ve spent the past week with 28 teens, trying to help them learn to be intentional in what they say, and in what they do. We all know that teens, that kids, can be very cruel to each other. We’ve all been on the receiving end of that cruelty during our growing-up years. But lately, I’ve noticed that we adults can be just as cruel to each other, intentionally or not. I’m guilty of it, and if you’re honest with yourself, you know you are too.
It’s time to be intentional. Be respectful. Be open to other viewpoints. Seek first to understand.
And if you can’t or don’t understand, how about practicing grace instead of vengeance?