On Words

“However many holy words you read, However many you speak, what good will they do unless you act upon them?” –Buddha
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” –James 2:14-17

The last few months I have been overwhelmed with a deep feeling of well sadness. It is something I can’t seem to shake, because wherever I turn I can see the problem. You can see symptoms of these problems every day. In fact the past month 4 different stories have made national news. I was deeply saddened and moved by the 4 shootings that have occurred in the last month. These are all stories of people who have been pushed too far. People who have broken and gone mad. It doesn’t make them any less people, nor does it excuse what they did in any way. The one thing that I saw similar in all 4 of these cases was a deep deep hatred. Where does that start? How does all of that begin? I have an idea, but I could be wrong. I think words have a lot to do with the beginning of hatred.

This summer I had the opportunity to take my youth group to the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colorado. This was almost exactly a week after the Aurora theatre shooting. This moment was an extremely powerful one for me since Colorado was my home for so long. I remember watching the reports on the Colombine shooting as they were happening. I was the same age as the kids in that high school. I was also saddened by the Shooting in Aurora, since the gunman lived a block away from the church where I had my very first youth ministry job. I had also frequented that theatre with the youth group from that church. Both of those combined really moved me. I began to think about what would drive a person to break like that. How could you no longer see others as human beings any longer? I think here too it was words.

In the case of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I know that they were bullied. I know that they got to the point where they believed there was no hope left. They broke and did something which was horrible and still haunts people to this day. James Holmes had some of the same issues, he was addicted to the internet and lost touch with true human interaction. The other three gunmen had issues where they had lost hope. They were pushed to the point where they destroyed other lives as well. How can we as human beings let things get that far? How can we not stand in the way and say no more?

I think, like I said before, words have a lot to do with this. I believe that it has been common place to say things like hate or love in passing conversation with their meanings completely stripped from them. I was the keynote speaker at a camp a few years ago and i talked to the teens about this very thing. I said that Hate is an extremely strong word. It says that you wish whatever the subject is didn’t exist anymore. That you wish a destruction upon said thing. I proposed that we stop using that word when we are mildly displeasured or annoyed at something. They took it to heart, and even took me to task for having used the word myself. I know I still continue to do it as well, much to my own chagrin. What is interesting though is that we are all guilty of it. We are all hatemongers in our own rite. “I hate hipsters.”, “I hate the current politician in power.”, Or “I hate Republicans/Democrats.” Admit it you know you have uttered something to this effect. Do you really hate that? Do you really hate that person? Do you wish that thing wiped from the earth? I don’t think so. I don’t think any of us starts out wanting to be a monster. I have written about this before in the past in my post “The Economy of Mercy”.

I think we need to start being more careful with our words. I think we need to stop using words that are powerful without thinking about them. I think we need to stop feeding the hate machines and the monster creators. I chose the quote from Buddha and the one from James to say that words are lovely, but it also takes action on our part as well. if we don’t want to see something like this happen again we need to actively move against that hate. We need to counter it with Love. We need to show those who have lost hope, that there are those who have not yet given up on them. I don’t know exactly how we can do that. I don’t know how we can be a true light in the world, but I am trying. I want to be someone who shows that God hasn’t given up on us yet. That there is still hope to be had in the world. That not everything is lost.

Those are my thoughts today, as jumbled as they are. I will leave this with a prayer: “God, let me be your light. Let me show people that you haven’t given up on us yet.”

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