The English language is a complicated thing to master. Think about it. We have so many words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings:
pair, pear, hole, whole, their, there, right, write
The list goes on and on.
In spelling class, we are taught “i” before “e” except after “c”…
and here’s a sampling of that not working out:
beige, height, leisure
Weird right? (see what I did there – wink).
How about the figures of speech? Yikes! These were interesting when my kids were younger. I would forget that they hadn’t quite mastered all the nuances of language yet. They took things quite literally. Like the time my daughter told me her leg was hurting. I had her show me where and then I asked what the pain felt like. She couldn’t quite explain it so I asked her if it was a constant pain, was it achy, or did it feel more like a shooting pain. She looked at me with eyes opened wide and said, “I don’t know mommy…I’ve never been shot.” Not exactly what I meant. We were at the beach on vacation and we had just eaten lunch. The rule was that you had to wait a half hour before you got in the ocean to give your food a chance to settle so you wouldn’t get a cramp. I have no idea if that’s a thing, but that’s what I had to do as a kid so I passed it along to mine. I was standing at the shore line with the other adults and my son kept coming up to me over and over again asking if he could get in the ocean. Finally in exasperation I said, “Go ahead…knock yourself out.” He looked at me with his little head cocked sideways and said, “Why would I do that?” I just knew that figure of speech was going to land me on Dr. Phil one day. “You know Dr. Phil…the trouble with my mom began when she told me I should knock myself out.” The audience gasps.
Figures of speech can end up in some funny misunderstandings. There are times though, where speech isn’t so figurative. This type of speech has the ability to cut someone to their core. I saw the effects of this first hand recently. I can’t emphasize enough that entering someone’s story is the best way to gain understanding. The labels just don’t stick when you are sitting face to face with someone you thought you had all figured out.
I had an opportunity to meet two young ladies who identify as LGBTQ. They were both in their 30’s. They both discovered that they were LGBTQ in their early middle school years. I listened to them as they described what it was like to discover this about themselves. They talked about the fear they felt of being found out. So I asked them how they knew it wasn’t safe to come out.
For one of the women, it was when she was watching a movie with her mom. The movie showed two men kissing. She said it was a quick kiss, but her mother’s reaction let her know it wasn’t safe. She was around 12 when this happened and her mom said, “That’s disgusting!” when the kiss happened. She immediately thought, “Oh my god! I’m disgusting!” For the other woman, it was during a church sermon that she realized it wasn’t safe to come out. The preacher yelled from the pulpit that being gay was an abomination. She didn’t even know what that meant so when she got home she looked it up. From that moment on she knew that people would think she was disgusting and would hate her. She attempted suicide.
I could tell that as they were telling their stories that those feelings had stuck with them. Even though they had moved on and were in loving relationships, the damage of those reactions and statements were being carried by them to this day. I could feel it. They took these words to heart. They took them literally. This was not a figure of speech misunderstanding. Because of this, as I’ve stated before, coming out is a scary endeavor. I am amazed by the harsh statements people make when someone comes out. This is a very personal aspect of someone and they are trusting you when they come out. Most of my experiences of telling people I have a gay son have been good. But I have had people respond with, “I don’t agree with that.” Really? I was not asking you if agreed with it. Then they go on to tell me that he is going to hell. Well I don’t think I asked you about that either. It’s happened to countless parents that I know and their children unfortunately. I just can’t imagine saying this to someone.
How do you think things turn out for kids that don’t have support? Being told over and over again that you are going to hell, that you are an abomination, that you are disgusting. Do you think it ends well?
There are several passages in the Bible that warn about the tongue. Maybe people should heed that since they can apply it to themselves and worry less with others. Let’s leave that up to God.
Words stick with people. Respond in love…because love matters.