"It's just words, folks. It's just words."
Growing up, I always heard that childhood standby: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I understand why we're told that. You don't want your kid to haul off and sock a seven year old because they're called a doo-doo head. But that saying is a lie. Words wound. In some ways, a word is worse than a stick or a stone because you can't see the damage done.
Words are powerful. Take away language and our civilization would be in a huge mess. Words convey what is most important to each of us. We express love, needs, and hatred with words. Even our visually saturated modern society is dependent on words: texts, tweets, web articles, the conversations we have each day.
Western Civilization especially is a culture which prizes documents that say something: the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bible. Words on words on words on words. Wars have been fought over those words. Arguments persist about them thousands of years after they were written down.
"But actions speak louder than words," you might say. We all know. I am simply saying that words are not insignificant. They matter profoundly. Words are a big piece of the puzzle that reveal each of us. Do words tell the whole story? No. But they convey a big chunk of it.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is recorded as saying "The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks." In Matthew, he states that hurling an insult should make you liable to the council; calling someone a fool should have you tossed in the fire.
The idea of someone speaking something profoundly degrading as being insignificant; the very thought of it being "just words" sits at the peak of an Everest-sized mountain of crap. What we speak has the potential to bring a taste of God's kingdom to people or it can unleash hell. So-called "harmless locker room talk" that degrades women to objects or off-the-cuff generalizations that paint an entire people group as monsters is hell embodied.
That Christians would defend such words is horrifying. It greatly upsets me to think of someone talking about my wife, sister, mother, or any other woman I know that way. It insults me as a man that there are some that write off this kind of behavior as normal. The entire situation breaks my heart and angers me.
I hesitated to write this because it's political season and emotions are high on all ends. This does not comment to anything else that any other politician has done. But I saw that statement last night and I had to write because I want my sons to know this, I want the students I work with to know this: words matter. Degrading women, African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, the disabled, or any other child of God is always a heinous act to commit. Always. It spits in the face of creation. There's no excuse for it.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to God. May our words counteract all the hell that is unleashed.