Sticks and stones….we’ve all heard that saying a time or ten in our lives. I can remember saying it to kids on the playground who were being mean to me when I was a young girl of five or six. Somewhere along the way between those days on the playground and the great age of 39, I’ve noticed that some people really believe this statement, acting as if words will never hurt them. It’s just simply not true.
Whatever happened to being kind? I remember a time when humans used to say hello to each other in passing and asked you how your day was going. I remember a time when people didn’t feel it was necessary to share their opinion on everything another person has said or done. And I definitely remember a time when people weren’t so hateful when they said such things, passing judgment with the finesse of a set of golf clubs through a wood chipper. When did it become okay to be so mean?
It’s true that we’ve become a society dominated by social media and technology. Google and WebMD have become our source for all leading and misleading information. These days, our true identities can be easily hidden, cloaked behind various e-mail accounts and Facebook profiles. Even then, some people just don’t care about the thoughts or words they’re speaking to others, all they seem to care about is making sure they are the loudest to be heard because the thing they’re saying is the right thing to them.
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last couple of years, and it’s been weighing on me even more these last few weeks. Just last week, I watched a semi-public figure launch a product that she believes in and has consulted experts about, only to have people publicly degrade her for the perceived lack of knowledge of her product, telling her to “stay in her lane.” Recently, I also saw a young child struggle because of bullying on social media for a medical condition. A young CHILD with a condition that can’t be helped. And yet, someone else’s CHILD thought it was okay to say mean things and embarrass the other. Why?
These situations and countless others are begging us to step back and look around at this mess we’re in. We, as adults, have a responsibility to show this younger generation that it’s okay to have an opinion. It’s okay to have a voice. It’s certainly okay to take a stand for something. But we need to lead by example and teach those around us that we need to do it with respect and humility. We know this doesn’t guarantee everyone will be respectful in return, but why should that stop us from speaking with grace, truth, and love to them? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been the unfortunate starter of a lot of arguments, but none of those arguments were ever won by either party when both were talking over each other, trying to be the loudest and the “most right.”
We also need to be the adults who say that talking unkindly to others, making fun of others, and hurting others for the sake of a laugh or a ‘like’ will not be tolerated. We should be on our children’s social media pages to monitor what they’re doing. We should be an active participant in their computer and phone activities. And perhaps most importantly, we need to be practicing what we preach. Actions speak louder than words, and when I make fun of someone or talk about someone in a demeaning way, I am telling my daughters it’s okay to do the same. That’s like teaching them it’s not okay to bully as a kid, but when you’re grown up and can be adult enough to say whatever it is you want to say, you have carte blanche to be as ugly as you want to be to someone else. It has to stop somewhere.
This is what inspired me to create the 12/25 Challenge last week. I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore. I want to be part of the solution. I want the generation coming up to know that we can love each other and be kind without having to have the last word. I can speak my truth without always needing to prove to others that my truth is the ‘right’ truth. I can take a stand for something and still agree to disagree with people who have different views without sounding arrogant. I want the words that flow from my mouth to be heartfelt and sincere, building people up. I want my speech marinated with the Fruit of the Spirit.
This can happen, people. My prayer for you is that as you go through this week and into the coming weeks, that you remember the 12/25 Challenge and acknowledge those who might need some sincerity and lift in their life. We can be the change. We just have to take the first step.