My husband and I love the movie "The Blind Side." We enjoy the humor and the "feel good" aspects of it, but mostly we love it as an example of how the unexpected interactions and transactions of our lives have the potential to transform hearts and change lives in amazing ways. I wonder how often we miss the signs that, if they were to appear in reality would read, "Caution: God's Love at Work."
There is one scene in the movie, however, that always gives me pause. The family is situated in the bleachers for Micheal's first high school football game, and a parent from the opposing team shouts out less-than flattering remarks directed at Michael. Young S. J. Tuohy wants to respond, but his mother gives him a restraining pat on the knee and asserts with confidence, "Sticks and stones, S. J. Sticks and stones."
We all know to what she is referring. Who among us didn't grow up reciting those words in their fuller context as an attempt to ward off the sting of hurtful remarks intended to diminish us? Words most certainly have the power to inflict pain and cause heartache.
This morning I write this as a confessional post, because recently I was the one careless with words that inflicted pain on someone I love. It is never my intention to wound, and I am usually very careful with my words. I know better than to write something when I am upset that carries the potential for regret. On this occasion I failed my better angels, causing hurt and reaping the cost of that failure. For that I take responsibility, and suffer the weight of my sin.
It is humbling to be reminded that as I seek to contribute to the greater good beyond my own life and world, to shape a kinder and more expansive sphere where ideas can be exchanged and boundaries extended, I must also tend to the intimate environments where the impact of my choices is felt most keenly. It is imperative to love and enact justice from an integrated whole of heart and mind if my intentions and beliefs are to find meaning with the next word I speak or action I take in the world at large.
Words matter in every context. They have the power to influence, encourage, persuade, distort, inspire, demonize, denigrate, and yes, hurt. We can respond with laughter and tears, compassion and anger, resolution and resentment. Because the trajectory of what results from our words can lead to pain, brokenness and estrangement, it is incumbent upon us to strive at all times for reconciliation and grace, mercy and love.
It is inevitable that our efforts from time to time will fail. Standing this morning in the pool of that failure I seek forgiveness, reaching for the light and love of God that bestows the balm of healing. I learn and grow, and begin again.