ACW

ACW

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Sticks and Stones, by Fiona Lloyd


I was a sensitive soul, growing up. Whenever I was upset by someone’s teasing, my dad – who subscribed to the stiff-upper-lip school of parenting – would remind me of that well-known proverb: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.



At the time, this was scant comfort. Even now – with all due respect to my late father – this saying makes no sense to me. I’d go so far as to say it’s completely the wrong way round, in that physical hurts tend to heal over time, but the wounds caused by vicious words and barbed comments can often fester inside us, resulting in far longer-lasting damage.



This seems particularly relevant in the light of the forth-coming general election. Having watched people’s reactions to both Brexit and the US presidential election last year, it’s clear that there’s something about political debate that can bring out the worst in us. We take to Twitter, Facebook (and all the other forms of social media I’m not trendy enough to understand) to express our outrage over the opinions of others. Someone dares to share a point of view diametrically opposed to our own, and – quivering with indignation – we leap right in to demolish their arguments.



I’m hardly the world’s best typist, but I know that if I’m not careful, my fingers can move quicker than my brain. All too quickly, our determination to highlight the fatal flaw in another person’s argument becomes an attack not just on their political views, but on their character. Our words are no longer a means of engaging in thoughtful dialogue: instead they become a menacing weapon, poised to wound and inflict damage.



I’m writing this on a Sunday evening. In our church service this morning, the preacher talked about the importance of kindness. It’s listed in Galatians as one of the fruits of the Spirit, which means it’s something we should be seeking to grow in our lives. I suspect it’s one that we often overlook, though; not least because it sits bang in the middle of that list, and the four before it (love, joy, peace and patience) are challenging enough.



As writers, it’s a concept that bears careful consideration. How will we ensure that the words we use are kind? For some of us, this will involve thinking through the ways we interact with others online. Do we really need to post that comment? Is there a better way of expressing it? Are we using our words to build up and encourage, or to belittle and hurt? We might also seek opportunities to use our words in a different setting, by writing a card to someone who needs support, or sending a text to let someone know we’re thinking of them.



Ephesians 4: 29 says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths (or fingertips!), but only what is helpful for building others up. There is a real opportunity for us as Christian writers – particularly in the run-up to June 8th – to demonstrate the truth of the gospel by choosing to fill our words with kindness.




Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013 and blogs at www.fjlloyd.wordpress.com. You can find her on Twitter at @FionaJLloyd. Fiona is vice-chair of ACW and is married with three grown-up children.

10 comments:

  1. Oh yes and yes again. The wounds that words can inflict can hurt for a lifetime. The flip side is that we can build people up with our words and make a positive change that can last a lifetime too. Thanks very much, Fiona, for this reminder - you're quite right about politics and social media. Wise words. x

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    1. Thanks for reading, Helen. It's so easy to forget just how powerful our words can be.

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  2. A really good post Fiona. At times it's hard to do, but so important. I find myself reacting in completely the wrong way at times on social media and I deplore thst side of me. Is it me but I also feel that, as Christians, while it's fine to express our views for or against policies, we shouldn't lampoon people. However much we disagree with someone in public office, they are still human beings. And, as you say, we shouldn't be unkind. Ever. I might add that I still have some way to go myself in this, in my head and elsewhere!

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    1. Thanks, Deborah. I think the reminder about what goes on in our heads is really important - learning to develop kindness in our thinking will be reflected in our words.

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  3. Yes! Just the kind of thing I'm aiming at too! If we all work at it we can make a difference! Thanks.

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    1. Thank you! I didn't read your (excellent) post until I'd already written mine, but I think you prepared the ground for me very nicely.

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  4. Emotional abuse - what bullying and teasing are - is long-term damaging, so kids who are abused by words don't 'recover' or 'grow out of it'. That little phrase is indeed so wrong. In writing and on-line, because of that (I had it too, at school - esp from one particular teacher) I deliberately don't create characters which readers can 'love to hate' and try to write with respect even when depicting people whose views I don't share. No 'baddies and goodies' because, actually, life is not like that. On line it's so important not to blast out at people but to be kind, or say nothing, or make every effort to be moderate. So important: we don't know why they hold the views they do. We don't know who they really are, what they have had done to them, or anything. I have had people think I am hard & arrogant on line, and impervious! Not so ... but how we say stuff is terribly important - I am learning not to ever make jokes, or employ dry humour, on-line - if someone doesn't 'get it', one is in trouble and for one's own fault! Thanks for this, Fiona.

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    1. It's astonishing how much words can sting, even decades later. Interesting to hear how your experiences have shaped the way you write about people, and have given you greater empathy for others.

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