I’ve been hearing this week from a range of sources about how hurt people can feel through the words we use, whether at the school gates feeling socially shut out as a mum, or a teenager on the recieving end of “banter” which subsequently led to suicide.. Trump talking about women as sexual objects, gay people feeling shut out of church if they are “proud” of their sexual identify, there is just so much hurt around.
People hurting each other isn’t just about violent acts such as the UKIP MEP’s, it can also be about exclusion, not speaking to someone because they’ve upset you, or suppression of the truth if you are in a powerful position, at the cost of others. It can be about drawing up boundaries of gender or sexuality to define your faith position, at the cost of others, or using someone else’s work to get a promotion without giving them due credit. Someone’s pain and retaliation to injustice can also be misjudged as aggression. Sometimes it’s even through expertise or knowledge.. Sally Phillip’s documentary on Down’s Syndrome showed just how hard it was for parents of children with Down’s to be taken seriously when they said how proud they were of their wonderful child, and how they would never want to have a screening to stop a baby developing with Down’s. Their perspective was seen as dubious, when medical advances could be so positive..
On a personal level I’ve had to learn to think more carefully about the words I use, as I’m not nearly as proficient at talking as I am writing, sometimes impatient, and my words can be clumsy, ill-thought out or wildly wrong. I am quite able to wind someone else up and walk away, or to subtly influence, undermine or refuse to acknowledge someone else’s perspective, particularly if I don’t agree with them!
Being a mum I think has taught me that people don’t really want sympathy or condolences, they might want you to share their tough moments and agree how hard it is, or laugh about things, help them in a practical way, but advice is not always something we can hear, especially when our insecurities and own issues are in the way. It’s mainly better to be present, hang around, say something loving, and get alongside where the person is at, rather than to judge. The Love that Jesus talks about I think is more of a verb than a noun.. and that’s what we have to do is actively love, and hate anything that gets in the way of that, forgiving people and hating injustice… not just say the words, or buy the T shirt..it’s not easy otherwise we’d all be doing it, maybe that’s why it was a commandment, and not a “nudge”!
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”