Demeaning.

So I’ve been thinking about the power of words this morning and ironically decided to use a few words to convey those thoughts. Words are powerful. The written word provides many people yearly salaries as they devote themselves to various online and written publications. The musical word is passed from generation to generation and has a distinct way of connecting otherwise disconnected peoples. The spoken word as it is communicated can have a tremendous effect on the receiver. Words can be life-giving or they can be shattering. Words can build one up or let one know that he/she isn’t worthy enough of the time it takes to produce a kind word. It is all to easy to insert one’s negative opinion about one’s self in self-deprecating humor or one’s negative opinion about others in sarcasm laced with subtle, hurtful innuendos. It is often times much easier to demean others for their opinions, looks, beliefs, endeavors, and attractions than it is to listen and love them for or in spite of their opinions, looks, beliefs, endeavors, and attractions. I often see grace presented in the church from the pulpit, but then that grace is abandoned… lost to preferences, self-righteousness, and pride. I’ve seen and experienced the same in relationships, often times finding myself the guilty perpetrator. So I am reflecting on extending grace through words–though I certainly don’t mean to negate the importance of grace through action.

If you agree that words can be life-giving or shattering, consider the magnitude of messages that the media extends to girls and young women that let them know how thin, tall, and tan they must be. Some of these messages are subtle and some not-so-subtle, but they are all words expertly used to convey an apparently necessary image. Having experienced this message via the uncanny number of hours teens spend watching television (a whole other blog post for another day), the girls then walk the halls of a school where fellow students who are trying to live up to the same image recreate. In the midst of this striving, unkind words are spat back and forth and everyone is left feeling that he/she is not enough in some way or another.

What if someone were to come along and tell that girl, “Sister, you are so beautiful!!! … you are beautiful in your uniqueness, you are beautiful because you stand for justice and mercy, you are beautiful because of the way you love people, and you are enough. Don’t you dare let a television commercial or a show like Toddler’s and Tiara’s tell you who you have to be. Be a woman who cares, who fights for justice, who shaves her head if she wants to. Because that is beautiful. Not air-brushing and the newest mascara.”

Let’s get some truth out there and use our words to give life… to fight for equality, to express love, to illicit change in our broken country and political system, and to build each other up. We can disagree, but don’t demean me because you can’t reconcile my beliefs with yours. Keep your beliefs, just give me words of grace. For summation of all these thoughts, here’s a powerful Ani Difranco line:

“I’ve never tried to give my life meaning by demeaning you”

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