hurtful words

Verbal Violence

Why is it that in any given setting with children from ages 5ish-11ish, they have a fear of saying ‘hell’ in the proper context because they might swear, but they have no problem calling each other ‘idiot’ or ‘stupid’?  Are we (adults) teaching the next generation that cussing is worse than verbal violence?

What is meant by verbal violence?  I’m a pacifist, but often when this is brought up in conversation, we immediately jump to topics like war or gun control, but pacifism isn’t limited to physical violence.  Rather it is about not bringing ANY KIND of pain on another person purposefully whether verbal, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc… as well as physical.  Verbal violence are words or a verbal attack meant to hurt, manipulate, or devalue another person or another person’s reputation.

word blog I turned to my Facebook friends to help me think of ways in which verbal violence is used.  I asked, “What are some examples of the most hurtful things anyone could ever say to someone else?”  I received several comments (high-five to those who helped!)  For the lack of space to list them all, I have put them into the following 8 categories:

  1. Attacks on self-worth: “You’re not enough!”

I.E. “We don’t really want/ask/need you here”, “You’re a disappointment”, “You don’t belong here”, “You don’t matter” and/or “You’re not attractive”.

  1. Attacks on Ability to be Successful at a Job: “You’re not good enough!”

I.E.  “You need to quit your job”, “You’re not a professional”, “You’re a bad example”, and/or “You’re doing everything wrong; you’re a failure”.

3. Spiritual Abuse: “You need to be where I am spiritually!”

I.E. “I doubt you really love that person”, “I’m not even sure you love God”, “God can’t use you”, and/or “You can’t be a Christian if…”

4. Ignorant Stereotypes: “You are all the same—pathetic!”

I.E. “Being a stay at home mom means you do nothing all day long”, “You throw like a girl”, and/or “You’re not a REAL man unless…”

  1. Silence:

I.E. You expect something from someone and it’s not delivered.  Times when it would be helpful if someone would just get it out in the open.  Passive Behavior.

  1. Silenced: “My thoughts are the only ones that matter… Duh!”

I.E. “Let’s not talk” because of a disagreement.  When you say something, the other person just shrugs it off or scoffs at it.  The other person continually interrupts and/or talks over you.

  1. The Back-Handed Compliment:  “Let me smack a happy face on what I really think of you.”

I.E.  “I asked you to teach just to see if you could take something seriously”, “You’ve lost a lot of weight for once”, and/or “I find it really special when a man actually knows how to wash dishes.”

  1. Gossip:  “I don’t have the guts to say it to their face.”

Do I really need to give examples of this one?

Now, if you’re like me, you just read that list and felt a bit speechless!  Words can seriously hurt us in various ways!  In fact, according to Harvard Gazette, children who are repetitively verbally abused can suffer the same psychological effects as physically and sexually abused children.  Words are capable of being just as dangerous as a physical beating!  Wow!

words hurt more

And yet we spend so much time trying to erase cuss words from movies, music, and life in general, when it appears there is far worse verbal violence that is taking place in this world.  If you are someone who has problems with cuss words, so be it, but let’s not ignore all the other hurtful things that can be said as well.

James 3 is a direct confrontation towards how every one of us are guilty of how we use our words and the extreme destruction they cause.  Verses 3-7 speaks of how small our tongue is and how great the devastation it can leave behind.  Verses 7-8 explains that all kinds of wild animals can be tamed, however, our tongues cannot be tamed.  Lastly, verses 9-12 shares the irony of how we praise God and curse humans, God’s own creation, with the same exact muscle in our body.

Often while growing up, I was told to put a rubber band around my wrist and every time I caught myself gossiping, I just snap it, and the continued pain would stop my gossiping.  Or I was told that every time I belittled someone I was to put $0.25 into a jar, and the lack of money would help me to stop.  As much as people were trying to help me deal with sin, I have learned over the years, these attempts really are futile.  I have learned to really stop the sin from our mouths is to understand James 3:11 which reads, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

If we want our words to be more Christ-like, the change starts from the inside out, not from the mere outside, or even the outside in.

For a while now, God has really been talking to me about how I use my words.  Here are some things that I have learned and I’m still learning that I pass on to you for what it’s worth.  Perhaps you can think of more examples (and if so, please share in the comments).

Listening with Empathy

We live in a culture that likes to talk and be right (and I’m just as guilty as the next person). If we want our words to be used wisely, sometimes that means shutting up and just listening with empathy. And it is possible for us to validate others without agreeing with them.

Egalitarianism

It’s amazing how much pride we can hoard and NOT EVEN BE AWARE OF IT because it has become a part of our everyday speech in conversation and often in clichés. When I started to fully understand how everyone is equal it was much easier to spot negative  “-ism”s such as sexism and racism where it shows its head in everyday life.

Pacifism

I already alluded to this in the introduction, and like I said, violence goes beyond war and gun control. Once I understood the concept of loving my enemies, I have put more thought towards how to stand up for myself and put safe boundaries around myself while being cautious of how it might hurt someone else.

Relationships

God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others. When we gossip or criticize we can easily destroy a gift God has given us. When I started understanding interdependency, I started to understand why its important relationships stay intact.

Confrontation

I have started to realize that when I confront an issue, it cuts down on such a great deal of gossip. It halts my desire to tell someone else so that I can look right. Although, I will be the first to admit, I still struggle on the right way to confront, which is just as important.

Accountability Partner

I have someone who I call my vaguebooking friend, and when I need to just ERGGGGG, well I communicate with her. We have a mutual understanding that we are just frustrated and need to get something out in the moment, and we trust one another. We also live several hours away from each other and we don’t usually know who the person even is that we’re frustrated with at the moment.

I often find myself pondering the question, “What if we treated all verbal violence the same way we treat words like: “hell”, “shit”, or “damn”?  How would that look?  Would gossip be minimal?  Would we try to understand and empathize with one another more?  Would we value our relationships more?  Would we all know that we are all enough?  Would we be more patient with one another?  Would everyone have better self-esteem and better self-worth?

Hmmm…

Words blog 2

 

Body-Image

Cut the BS (Body Shaming)

I was born with a lazy eye which required surgery within a year of birth. For the first several years of my life my parents had to put a patch over my good eye to force the weak eye to strengthen. As a baby they had to put socks on my hands to keep me from peeling the patch off, and they had to safety pin the socks to my sleeves to keep me from pulling them off my hands. Wearing the patch over my eye continued until I was in Kindergarten. I have a clear memory of wearing the patch one summer at VBS. All day I had to explain to curious children why I was wearing it. Then the next day I had to explain to all the same children why I wasn’t wearing the patch this time. My vision, with corrective lenses, is now normal. But to this day, if I take off my glasses, or if I’m very tired, you can still see my right eye wandering off, which, I’m told, is quite creepy to witness.

I’m no stranger to body shaming. I was the awkward, chubby kid with glasses, a bad haircut, and crooked teeth. Never part of the “in” crowd, I was often ostracized and teased. Kids always made fun of the way I looked. Even as an adult, the body judging continues, but instead of teasing it’s pitying looks and a list of reasons I should lose weight. They tell me to lose weight for health, for looks, for a swimsuit, and even so I could get more dates. When I reach for dessert after dinner and get that judgmental glance, I feel like I’m 5 years old all over again explaining to a nosy kid why I have a patch over my eye.

But what I’ve found about body shaming as I’ve become an adult is that most of the shame comes from me. Yes, I’ve had my share of other people telling me how I should change my body, and to some degree I can even blame our beauty-obsessed society, but when it comes right down to it, I’m my biggest critic. I can stare at the mirror for hours pointing out everything wrong with my body. And maybe you can relate.

I don’t want to minimize the pain of body shaming you’ve had to endure from others. I don’t know your story, or what others have said to you about your body. But maybe, like me, you’ve discovered that most of your body shaming comes from yourself.

One day in college, I discovered something in a magazine my church publishes for youth that would change my perspective about body shaming and condemning. Next to an article about self-esteem was an inset titled “The truth about your body.” I cut it out and taped it on the wall next to my bed and read it over and over. When I moved home after college, I took the magazine clipping with me. Every time moved, I kept the clipping and taped it to a mirror or a cupboard or a wall where I could see it and be reminded regularly of what God thinks of my body.

The truth about your body

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” –1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” –1 Peter 3:3-4

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” –1 Timothy 4:8

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7b

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:14

Coming to peace with my body didn’t mean losing weight or obtaining 20/20 vision. It meant loving my body as God’s magnificent creation. I marvel at God’s amazing design, the complex web of nerves, the sturdy frame of bones and skeleton, the strong muscles that carry my body wherever I walk, the circulatory system that delivers the oxygen from a simple breath all the way down to the tips of my toes. God created us each with such amazing bodies. And he also allowed for diversity we see in color of skin, hair, or eyes, number of freckles and moles. He gave diversity in size, shape, build, and height. Even the diversity of our personalities can be seen on our bodies in the clothing we wear, the haircut we choose, the nail polish, make-up, accessories, or jewelry we wear or don’t wear. And diversity is a beautiful thing. We are all uniquely made and designed.

The truth about your body is that God created it. When you criticize God’s creative work, you criticize him. When you shame your body you’re saying that God did something wrong, or that he doesn’t measure up.

Last week Deb’s post reminded us to cut the BS about others’ bodies, to stop nitpicking and fault finding with each other and instead love and accept each other. This week, I want to go one step further and tell you to cut the BS about your own body. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your self-worth and beauty don’t come from your body. Your worth comes from your Creator and that’s something we can all celebrate no matter the size, color, style, or shape of your body.

Bass

Body Shaming (or “B.S.” for Short): Part 1

Disclaimer:  Women are not the only ones who are faced with body shaming, men also struggle with this.  Women are not the only ones who struggle with eating disorders, men do as well.  This is NOT strictly a women’s topic, but since I’m a women, I will be telling it from a female’s perspective.

In 2014, a song entitled, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor hit the radio and became a success overnight.  I first heard about it on Facebook and I Youtubed it and was annoyed.  Honestly, the tune is catchy, and very popish, which is typical nowadays.  And kudos for calling out Photo Shopping!  I definitely give a high rating for even attempting to tackle the topic.  It’s definitely something that needs to be addressed in our society.  However, outside of those two things, I am greatly annoyed with the song.

First of all, why is it that the only way we can justify our size is by shaming the opposite?  The bass shame the treble, and the treble shame the bass.  Trainor claims she wasn’t skinny shaming, but I wonder exactly how one is supposed to appreciate being referred to as a “skinny b*tch”.  Secondly, the reason not to worry about size is because men like a little more booty to hold at night.  Really?  Wow!  Can we say, “objectifying”?  That is NOT okay in my book, at all!

According to “Stuff Mom Never Told You” Youtube channel, the reason why there are such extremes on either end of the spectrum is because it is surrounded by the concept of will power. Women who are bigger are accused of not having enough will power.  Women who are skinny are accused of caring too much.  There are some serious problems in this stereotype.

I decided to do a quick Google search on what The Bible had to say about body shaming.  I didn’t find anything on this particular topic.  What I did find was that people equate gluttony with being overweight, which wasn’t surprising to me at all, however, I did find it disappointing.  People of all sizes can struggle with gluttony, the scale holds no evidence of this at all!  There are various reasons as to why a person is a certain weight, and it is NOT limited (whatsoever) to their diet.  So let’s just slaughter that myth and keep going.

Weight is not the only body shaming that takes place.  Men can be stigmatized for being too short, while women can be stigmatized for being too tall.  Pretty girls can be stigmatized as being ditzy…so on and so forth…   The interesting part is that we constantly quote how our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and then disrespect our own and each other’s bodies by shaming how we look.  One HUGE double standard in our Christian world.

They say confession is good for the soul, so here I go… Most mornings, while getting ready for work, I listen to “Try” by Colbie Caillat.  I first heard this song late last year, and the first time I heard it, I was like, “YES!”  What I appreciate about this song is that it asks the question, “Who are you doing all this for?  Are we doing it in order for people to like you, or is it because you like to doing it?”  I think this is the key question that needs to be asked, and validated more often.  If we are doing it to be healthy and to feel better, then we will be happy and feel better no matter what.  If we are merely doing something to avoid shame, will it really be better in the end?

A few years ago, a couple of my friends and I were having lunch together.  One of my friends had lost a lot of weight recently, and when I say a lot, it was close to 80 lbs.  She looked healthy and happy, and was proud of her recent accomplishment. The three of us had a good conversation over the meal.  When it came time for dessert, I passed because I was full from the meal, and my friend being on a diet passed, and so our mutual friend snidely announced, “Well, I’m going to get dessert.  I’m not afraid of being fat like some people.”

As she left the table to go get dessert, my other friend and I were left sitting in an awkward silence.  After a few seconds, she said with awed disgust, “Wow!  So this is what it feels like to be skinny.”

“Yep,” I said, “welcome to the club.  I tell people all the time that you get just as much crap for being skinny as you do for being overweight.  Nobody ever believes me though.  I just get told, ‘You’re skinny.  You don’t get it.’  But the truth is no matter what weight a girl is, it’s the wrong weight.  We all ‘get it’.  Either, she’s skinny and constantly told she’s anorexic and needs to get some meat on her bones, or she’s overweight and accused of being a pig and eating all of her feelings.  You honestly can’t win.”

My friend went on to say something really profound, that I’ll never forget.  “This is the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life.  I always thought it would be better.  I guess it’s just one of those things that you think ‘if only I was like this my life would be better’ and then you achieve it and you realize it doesn’t change anything at all.”

This is extremely true, and not just in the sense of weight, it can be anything we strive for in our lives for whatever out-of-this-world reason society promises us.  It’s really crazy.  And the older I get, the more I realize, it’s wiser to just be happy in my own skin.  Running after whatever the shame tells us to, is futile and useless.

We also need to wake up and realize when we are shaming others, because this needs to stop.  Especially if it’s female to female or male to male.  If our own gender mocks it, then we are readily justifying the other gender to mock it as well.

A little less than a year ago, a group of us had traveled to Israel.  After an evening of walking around with some locals, we were discussing the experience.  In the midst of that conversation she said, “Really, no matter where you go or who you meet, all people really want only two things: love and acceptance.”  That has stuck with me.  And when we body shame one another we do not show love and acceptance towards one another.

So, maybe it’s time we acknowledge that the body we’re in is the body we’re in.  Let’s stop trying to do it all in hopes of being loved and accepted.  Let’s ask why we do what we do, and do whatever it is for ourselves.  And most importantly, let’s stop shaming the other, because really friends… that’s B.S.

boss4

Like a Boss

The last year of my life has been a whirlwind of changes and moves and new responsibilities. As I stumbled through my first four months as the pastor/administrator in charge by myself, I learned quite a lot. Here are just a few of those lessons.

How to count – Many people must be worried that I’ve forgotten basic arithmetic because they’re constantly reminding me “You’re only one person.” Hm, one plus none is…one. Got it. I understand that you are usually trying to reassure me that it’s okay to not be superman, that you understand if I happen to do less around here than the two people before me. But sometimes I feel a little like you’re pitying me. I’m okay with being only one person. I’m still learning my limits, but I am learning them.

Power is sexy – I have the title “boss.” I’m responsible for what goes on around here. With that position comes an ego boost. I know I have the potential to directly impact someone’s job, and the employees know it, too. So when I walk in the room, they pay attention. This is something new for me. Growing up as one of six kids, I’m used to anonymity. I was never the rich kid, the beautiful kid, or the talkative kid. And as an associate pastor, I’ve always felt like my job was to help the other pastors wherever they needed me. Even in a position of authority I was the wallflower of the leadership team. For someone who’s spent most of her life not quite being noticed, to now have the attention of the entire staff when I walk in the building, well, some days I can feel like some pretty hot stuff.boss3

My position is humbling – So much power comes with the position of being in charge that I often feel inadequate. I look around the table at a staff meeting and think to myself, “You are older than me, have more education than me, and have more experience than me. Why am I leading this meeting? Or this organization?” Employees, church members, volunteers, and community leaders come to me with the problems they see in the organization and expect me to know how to fix them. I smile and nod and think to myself, “I’m not cut out for this.”

It’s lonely – As an associate pastor, I was a peer to the other pastors. Now I serve without a peer. As an associate, I had a camaraderie with the staff, because I wasn’t their direct boss. They knew I didn’t have the real power, so they could be chummy with me. But now I’m in charge and I have a different dynamic with the staff. I still have peers, but I don’t work directly with them. I’m not complaining, I have a whole network of peers and others who can share my joys and frustrations or answer questions I have. What I miss is the quick moment of eye contact and a sympathetic glance that says, “I’m sorry that person was an idiot. They don’t understand your job, but I do.”

I can’t do it all – Being in charge has been a blow to my pride. As much as I want to hold it together and convince you that I’m just fine out here, if I told you that I would be lying. I can paste on a smile, but my work quality isn’t as good, my ‘to-do’ list is always twice as long as my ‘done’ list, and something always falls through the cracks. So I’ve learned to transition from doing my job with great certainty to managing damage control on all the projects that crash and burn.

Important things get glossed over in favor of urgent things – Because I can’t do it all, I end up having to choose which projects get my time and which ones get rushed. Turns out the important responsibilities don’t always get priority because urgent things demand my attention first. So, yes, I finally got a chance to prepare for the quick meeting tomorrow—but now I don’t have the time I had set aside to prepare for the important meeting next week. Oh well, I’ll just throw something together when I get a chance.

I can’t keep up with emails – They’re like a plague with no cure and no end in sight. They just keep coming all the time. And now I have them on my phone, so I’m expected to read and respond more quickly, but in reality, I just have another device where they can taunt me.

Figuring out who I can count on – With a leadership team, finding the right support meant a lot of trial and error. Being alone means I have to trust my support more, making it much faster to figure out who’s eager to help and who’s unreliable.

I’m stronger than I thought I was – Just as my responsibilities have highlighted my failures and shortcomings, they’ve also shown me my strengths. This position has forced me to do things and take on responsibilities I never thought I was capable of. I have a whole new understanding of Paul’s words in Philippians, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13). I can’t do everything the way I think it should be done, or the way my supervisors think it should be done. But I can come into a leadership role and succeed the way Christ wants me to. It doesn’t eliminate the frustrations I have with this position, but it sure helps me rejoice in my accomplishments.

prince of egypt

HAPPY… Last Year?

The clock promptly stuck 12 o’clock midnight and we all wished everyone a Happy New Year!  The old man 2014 has passed and the new baby 2015 is born.  Everyone’s slate is wiped clean and we start our year off with resolutions of riding ourselves of old habits.  That certainly is a great cause for celebration with noise makers, confetti, family, friends, games, hats and midnight kisses.  However, this isn’t how everyone brings in a New Year.

During Christmas, I was participating in a Pentateuch class.  At first, this seemed like odd timing.  It would make more sense to study the Gospels during December, right?  Well, actually, a lot came out of studying the beginning of the Old Testament in class while celebrating the beginning of the New Testament in my daily life.  I was able to see a lot of interesting parallels and see things differently than I had before when I saw Christmas trees and stockings hung by a fireplace.  The one thing that stood out in my mind was Passover, known to the Jewish world as Pesach.

The Jewish calendar is different than our American/secular calendar.  Nissan is the first month of their year and it coincides with our March and April.  The first celebration Jewish people take part in is Passover.  The Jewish New Year starts off with remembering instead of Christians who start their New Year off with a new slate.

Their celebration starts by throwing away and getting rid of all the yeast in the home.  Some families may even have a special cookware to use this time of year that has never touched yeast and is kept separate from the cookware they use the rest of the year with yeast.  The lack of yeast was first, to remember in what haste the Israelites had to leave Egypt, and secondly, yeast is often a metaphor of sin and evil in The Bible.  The first night is the Passover meal or Passover Seder, and as a total of seven days the Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated.  This is a time where older generations tell younger generations the stories of the exodus.  How the Jewish people were oppressed by the Egyptians in slavery and how God sent Moses to free the Israelites.  How there were plagues that took place because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.  And how the last plague, the plague of death to kill the first born son, passed over the houses that had a lamb’s blood placed on the doorframe.  A New Year means a time of remembering deliverance.

As a result, this Christmas, as I drove for work every night, I found myself listening to the Soundtrack to the cartoon movie, “Prince Of Egypt” and particularly the first song, Deliver Us, instead of your traditional Christmas music.  Interestingly enough, I started to see some parallels between Moses’ birth and Jesus’ birth.  Both births were rescued from death.  Both births were of boys.  Both boys grew to be great prophets.  Both boys would grow to bring deliverance to people.  I thought of the 400 years the Israelites were enslaved, and I thought of the 400 years of silence, and how both time periods could very well be a time of calling out for a deliverer to set people free.  I thought of how even now, we call for Christ’s return to deliver us from sin and sickness in this world.  Ironically, this became a profound and yet odd Christmas Carol for me this year.

So, as we enter 2015, may our minds not only be set on resolutions or a clean slate, but also a place where we remember what God has done in the past (our personal pasts as well as Bible stories and Church history), what God will do someday when He comes again and creates a New Heaven and a New Earth, while we sit in the present and minister and witness to those we meet in our everyday lives.

Happy last year and happy new year!  :-)