Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

I didn’t major in something that ended in “Studies,” so I’m confused.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations in Paris, one cartoonist responded with a hand rising from bloody paper, middle finger raised in a universal gesture, “F— you!”

It’s a predictable response from a cartoonist. However, something about it struck me, for the first time. It’s graphical sexual violence. Isn’t it a rape metaphor?

When someone screams, “F— You,” they aren’t seeking consent. When the global climate is “F—ed up,” something’s been done to it, and we now have to live with the consequences, and they’re never good. We’re not exactly drifting off to sleep in the peace of loving intimacy.

The same is true of the F-bomb’s older, and hence less shocking, ancestors in American slang. It’s pretty screwed up, if you ask me. That sentence has become so detached from its original connotation that it doesn’t even register with most people. The same is happening with the F-bomb. It is now an F—cracker, on its way to becoming an F-sparkler.

What will take its place? R-pe You? That would be offensive. But don’t they all mean pretty much the same thing?

I’m confused.

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It’s the morning after the Newtown, CT school shooting, and I’ve just been on Facebook. People are “talking” about firearms.

I’m not going to share my own views on the Second Amendment, gun control, and other possible enablers of such horrors. Then you could put me in a category, and feel a little more, and think a little less.

No, what I want to talk about is how we talk about things. The day before yesterday, it was about the fiscal cliff and “Freeloaders!” and “Greedy (Straight White Male) Rich People!” (Did your pulse just change?) Give it a week, and it will probably be about a decorated conifer on public property.

Today it’s firearms. We all have a point, often a valid one. But when we talk about it, so many of us attack the intelligence, character, and even humanity of those who disagree.

And then, what amazes me most, we’re then “shocked…SHOCKED” that the other side won’t “engage in dialogue” or “have a meaningful conversation.” We stir up emotion with our words, and then wonder why “they’re” acting like cornered bears. Or, we don’t even wonder any more. It just reinforces what we already think about The Other Side.

Jesus says that the root of murder is in the heart. Continued anger and insults are warning signs. If you take the name of Jesus’ follower and then cultivate these attitudes and words, consider this, from Matthew 5:21-22, Amplified Bible.

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court.

But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

If you don’t give a rip about Jesus, pay attention to the latest brain science. Read “Crucial Conversations” and learn about what anger and insults do to dialogue.

For your own sake, please.

For the sake of my self-destroying country (taking our kids’ future on this earth and maybe ours too down with it), please. The heat from your words is causing the wax to melt even faster.

Charity and Love

Posted: 2012/03/01 in Stories, Words
Tags: ,

A friend of mine posted on Facebook—that great virtual town square—an article called The Lessons of Charity.

His wife gave $5 to a homeless man in Chicago. He responded, “What if he just uses it to buy drugs or alcohol?” Her response was, “That’s his choice. Once I chose to give him the money, it’s his. What gives you the right to decide for him?”

Phil Scarr’s thesis is that the spreading policy of drug testing welfare recipients is driven by a sense of moral superiority, and a desire by the rich, specifically the Republican Party, to further subjugate and humiliate the poor.

Well, I’ve been down this road too, and as I’m fond of saying, “It’s not that simple.” Now, I tend to avoid this road altogether. It makes me uncomfortable. According to Global Rich List, compared to the rest of the world, “I Am The 1%.” But I have given to poor people. I’ve given money, paid for a motel room (no place I would want to stay), bought bags of groceries, and filled up gasoline tanks. I’ve also stopped giving to one individual when I discovered that he was lying to my face. I’m now more likely to give through my church or food banks or the Salvation Army than directly. People who serve the poor full time through these agencies have all told me not to give money directly to the poor person on the street corner because they probably aren’t the neediest person and they very well might use it to buy alcohol or drugs.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s motives, but when I contemplate my own acts of charity, I feel a mixture of joy and shame. Until I read Mr. Scarr’s article, “moral superiority” never once crossed my mind. Now that I’ve read Mr. Scarr’s article, it crosses my mind, but without even slowing down. What does cross my mind when I give, and what I aim for, is love, “Saying and doing what’s truly in the other’s best interest, whether they deserve it or not, and with no strings attached.”

1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s “love chapter” trotted out of context at many a wedding, drives a sharp wedge deeply between charity and love. The third verse says,

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I bucked the trend and didn’t “like” the article on Facebook because Mr. Scarr does the very thing he condemns; he judges the motives of people (including me) who judge the intent of recipients of charity. The reason that I don’t want to make it possible for homeless people to obtain drugs and alcohol based on my act of charity has nothing to do with a sense of moral superiority. It’s because I don’t think that’s what loving them looks like. The reason I stopped helping the man who was trying to con me is the same reason I disciplined my daughter when she was trying to con me. It’s not in their best interest to reward that behavior. I explained my decision to both of them—to the man once, and to my daughter many times.

As with so many other things, so it is with charity. Ground yourself in love, and you just might get it right. Without love, your charity might do more harm than good.

G. K. Chesterton

Affection, Love, and Dogs

Posted: 2011/08/28 in Concepts, Words
Tags: , ,

I was talking to a wise friend of mine the other day about love, and I mentioned the famous quote, “May I someday grow to be the person my dog thinks I am!”’

My friend said, “That’s not really love.” (more…)

Today a person said a deeply hurtful thing to me.

I have an explanation for it. They’ve spent a lot of time in the last two weeks in large crowds, marinating in sometimes inflammatory sights and sounds, and they misunderstood a statement I made.

I also called their words inexcusable. This is not a contradiction.

An explanation builds understanding. I long for explanations of why a person believes the way they do, feels the way they do, acts the way they do, and speaks the way they do.

An excuse evades responsibility. If I’m walking in the path of love, I’ll forgive—maybe not right away—but I’ll do it. An explanation is helpful, but not necessary. As for an excuse, I’ll just add it to the offense that I intend to forgive.

Just to keep things in perspective, I don’t have real enemies, compared to some of you. So if your reaction to my definition of love, “whether they deserve it or not,” is “Yeah, right!” I don’t blame you.

Here’s a short list of who I find hard to love:

  • Competitive, Type-A (I know what “A” stands for and it’s not “Assertive”) bully jerks
  • The greedy, short-sighted people who stole my future, at least in this life
  • Liars—the kind who can look me straight in the eye and lie to me
  • People who abuse people—especially women and children—and who abuse animals

I could go on, but it’s not healthy. And I could name names, but that’s both libelous and potentially unsafe (and therefore not loving). But if I never name names, under any circumstances, that makes me a coward and therefore not deserving of love myself.

Now, you might say, “People like that are despicable. They don’t deserve love, they deserve justice.” You’re right. (more…)