For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to see what I can personally take away from the Arizona shootings. I’ve swung back and forth on the whole “political discourse” thing, tried to think of things that would improve this broken place we call home, led a youth discussion about violence and did almost everything you can come up with that wouldn’t require change on a personal level. Until tonight, that is. After being shown God-knows-how-many examples of what poorly chosen words can do to someone, it finally sunk in. And, as usual, I did not like it.
Tonight, during youth, we were discussing the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds with our kids when one of them made a rather snide remark about his cousin who, of course, was right there in the room. I just looked at him and said “Really?” Before I could say much more, the discussion wheeled off in another direction and I didn’t think much more about it. Until Olivia and I were on our way to meet her mom (who lives in another city) and the cousin texted both of us in an attempt to find out what was said. I wouldn’t tell him because the kid catches enough crap from this particular family member and one more piece wouldn’t help the situation. As I drove and Olivia fended off his questions (tonight I kinda liked that “no texting while driving” rule), I began to think about talking to the smart mouth about the garbage he throws his cousin’s way. As I ran through the possible conversation in my head, I imagined myself chiding him for making derogatory remarks about the other young man. Then, all of a sudden, I thought, “How’s that any different than what you say to all the kids?” After several extremely futile attempts to defend myself, I gave and said, “It’s not.”
I suppose I should take a moment or two to give a little background here. If it hasn’t been evident from what you’ve read here, I have a dark, twisted and deeply sarcastic sense of humor. The dark and twisted part probably comes from work. You see enough pain and suffering and your defense mechanisms start firing up and one of them is to find humor in the humorless before you go crazy. So, I’ve got an excuse for that part, but I’ve been a smart-ass for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a double-edged sword, getting out of almost as much trouble as it’s gotten me into. As I’ve gotten older, it’s seems like the sharp tongue I was born with has become more and more acid-tinged. One of the earlier mentioned examples of what words can do occurred during last week’s youth meeting. We were playing a game called “Psychiatrist” where everyone sits in a circle and one person (the psychiatrist) leaves the room. While they’re gone, everyone else figures out a common problem for themselves. The “psychiatrist” re-enters and, through yes and no questions, attempts to divine the problem. So, last Sunday, we’re playing this stupid game and the problem the kids came up was that they were all me. So, the “psychiatrist” (my daughter Olivia, by the way) comes in and, almost in unison, these kids began to spew a stream of invective that made me shudder. Every time I remember it, I think “Is that the way they see me? Worse, is that the way I sound?”. If that wasn’t bad enough, it took about 30 seconds for Olivia to guess who they were. Yet another instance of “that guy” rearing his head.
I go back and forth about Lent and the practice of giving something up for the duration. I’ve done it a couple of times and it was okay. It’s supposed to be a spiritual discipline like fasting and prayer and, to be honest, I didn’t get a whole lot out of it. This year, I’m changing it up. Instead of abstaining from some favorite food or drink, I’m going to give up something a lot harder: my smart mouth. I’m going to try and make it from Ash Wednesday (March 9th) until Easter Sunday (April 24th) without being mean, nasty, caustic or any of the other words to describe something that’s pretty unChrist-like. It won’t be easy, especially if some of the people I work with get wind of this attempt. Firefighters get bored easily and find get sport in antagonizing each other. But, maybe, just maybe, it’ll actually be worth the effort this time.