Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 12, 2004
Words hurt like the blade of a sword
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
What was that? What did they say?
Ranging from discussions of extremely intimate matters, to emotionally-charged outbursts, to the grossest obscenities, I am hearing more and more language that obviously doesn't seem to bother the speaker, but it certainly does bother me.
Recently, I was on a train when people were cringing with embarrassment and discomfort. A loud cell phone-caller sprinkled some of those famous four-letter words generously throughout his one-sided conversation about petty office politics.
First, I thought, "Wow, I hope none of his colleagues hear this!" After awhile, I was so annoyed, I wished his boss really was listening in.
We have so many opportunities to listen to people these days, there are times when I am absolutely amazed by what comes out of people's mouths.
From cell phone conversations to which we are privy or everyday chats we overhear, far too many take tortured verbal twists. The subjects may be personal, political, religious, social or whatever, but the words and tone too often are ugly, arrogant and insulting.
Then there are the radio and television talk shows whose hosts seem to egg on guests and audience members to discuss virtually anything and everything, and we hear things that probably couldn't have been imagined just a few years ago.
Have I simply reached a point in life when I wonder what this world is coming to, just as generations before me have done? Is it because I'm a priest and want to see - and hear - the best from people?
Well, yes, probably, on both counts. But only up to a point. I think something else is going on. Today's society seems to place a high value on honesty and self-expression. Both qualities are healthy and commendable. Truth should be sought, not avoided, in all things. Too many people have suffered because they hide secrets, even terrible ones, such as abuse. Truth and honesty is to be applauded when it leads to such necessary revelations.
Because each one of us is a person of innate, God-given worth, that means our beliefs and their expression are of value, too. Since every single person has a right to be treated with respect, that includes the speaker and must include the listener as well. When words either pointlessly ignore or affront the feelings of listeners, it shows disregard, even contempt. Besides, some matters are simply nobody else's business.
Let's face it, we're all guilty of speaking inappropriately at times. The apostle James put it this way in his epistle: "With (the tongue) we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing" (3:9-10).
But we can make the effort to see that our words reflect our best, being honest and truthful while showing the respect, and, yes, love for others that God asks of us. We can speak as we would be spoken to - because that's really what we're talking about, isn't it? The Golden Rule.
That's the true measure of everyone. You have my word on it.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Making Peace, Person-to-Person, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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