My son Bryan was invited to share his story at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was one of two featured speakers on a night when almost every participant in the room shared some kind of disability. Disabilities included Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. Each person was asked to write a poem about their challenges and to highlight what was bad as well as what was good. Then, throughout the evening, volunteers could come to the front of the room and share what they wrote.
Mary was in the process of leaving physical therapy in her car in a parking lot. She looked to her right and saw nothing but didn’t look to her left. As she began to pull out the oncoming driver laid on the horn letting Mary know her displeasure. Mary quickly realized her mistake and put up her arms to acknowledge her error and rolling down her window told the other driver, “I’m sorry.”
Later as Mary was pulling into a fast-food restaurant she noticed the woman she had almost cut off was in line in front of her. When it came time for Mary to drive up to the window and pay for her food the attendant said the woman in front had paid for her meal!
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
Cassidy sent out an email to her boss. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Grok Inc. cited several recent incidents that occurred and accused Konrad, a coworker and fellow executive, of harassing her and generally acting like a jerk. The boss was surprised because he had worked with Konrad for years and had never before received complaints like this about him or observed him to act in a way that was disrespectful to others. So he asked his CFO to call him. When she did, he questioned her as to what exactly Konrad had done. In the course of the conversation the boss realized that Cassidy was making several bad assumptions about her coworker. It especially galled him that she had not discussed her concerns with Konrad before sending him the negative report.*
A small crowd of perhaps a hundred gathered for the tree lighting. Four strands of multicolored lights ran up the 40-foot fir. The air was festive and the mood light. Christmas songs were sung off-key while boys and girls eyes roved frantically for Santa. One after another dignitaries walked forward and gave their remarks. Then the emcee asked the Chaplain to give the blessing.
For nine years I’ve led an adult coed soccer league in the city of Tigard. This is the second year we have run the league without referees. The first season we tried it there were complaints and it was a rocky transition. It was clear that some players preferred refs because they could cheat. They could bend the rules to their advantage. If the official didn’t see the infraction, then that was part of the game.
I picked up the sports section of The Oregonian dated February 5, 2002 and read Selena Roberts article about a sixteen-year-old ice skater, Sarah Hughes. Selena wrote:
“You know Sarah Hughes? She flutzes.” The words usually have come in the form of a whisper in some back corridor of a rink, in the back alley of a figure skating competition, from adults turned adolescents . . .Who started it, no one really knows. Maybe an opposing coach, a certain judge, a chatty critic. But from every direction, Hughes is hearing and reading how she takes off on the wrong edge as she enters her lutz, making it what’s called a flutz.
“What’s wrong with you?” The question stung. Bryan replied from the safety of a carpeted banister, “Hey, this is my first time and I don’t have very good balance.” “So, it’s easy,” the boy retorted. Then with a look that said, “You’re a dork!” he took off. A friend skated to Bryan who then shared what the kid had said. He was appalled at the boy’s rudeness. He went over to some of their mutual friends and reported the insult. They devised a plan to body check the smart aleck. Not a godly response—but humorous. For Bryan, the balm of supportive friends covered the sting of criticism.
Have you ever considered the notion that what you and I say is a form of planting? For example, if I whine constantly I create an environment of dissatisfaction and I reveal an inner discontent with life. If I have a critical spirit and am harsh in the way I feel towards others I create an atmosphere of distrust and rob my surroundings of joy. If I talk only of myself I establish a place of pride and self-centeredness that leaves others with no desire to linger. If I speak of others with unflattering terms or negatively I produce gossip or slander and cause the reputations of those of whom I’ve spoken to wilt. At the same time I’ve created the perception in the listener “I wonder if he talks about me like this when I’m not around.”