Saturday, March 20, 2010

Watch Your Language!




Well, dear Academicians, you've seen me write the following several times before:
When I teach theology, I always insist to my students, "Watch your language!"  Meaning, that students should listen attentively to what they're saying:
  • Are the correct words being used?  
  • Are there words and concepts that will make the meaning easier to grasp while preserving the truth and accuracy of the subject being discussed?
  • Are the words causing confusion, or distortion, or even denial of the subject?
Now, as a veteran of the Confessional, I have heard a lot of different sins confessed over the years.  And in my 25+ years of experience as a Confessor, I have concluded that the sins which deeply wound and denigrate others are verbal
  • Words spoken deliberately to leave another person feeling violated, fearful, humiliated, inferior, insignificant, worthless.  
  • Words which threaten bodily harm to another person.  
  • Words used in a rumor you spread about a person.  
  • Words used to give you power over a person.  
  • Words which aren't "just joking around," or "teasing", or "horse-play" -- but intended to make your victim suffer. 
  • Words that act like psychological acid, destroying a person's self-image, self-confidence, or sense of security.
That old idiom, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," is as wrong as can be.

Before the next time comes in which you deliberately choose to sin against another by using cruel and vicious vocabulary, you should remember who your abusive and offensive terms will really be cutting.  For example: You get into a road rage with another driver. Perhaps this person's driving isn't as skillful as yours is. You roll down your window and call the other driver an idiot, a moron, an imbecile.
You will be accountable to Our Lord for those words -- as if you said them to Him.
Saint Paul states clearly, in his Letter To The Romans [15:3], "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'" 
The holy Gospel according to Matthew [5:20-26] records Our Lord Jesus telling His disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill'; and 'Whoever kills will be liable to judgment.'
“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You Fool'
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

"Raqa": An Aramaic word meaning "imbecile," "blockhead"; a term of abuse.

And so, dear Academicians, if you have "Opened mouth, inserted foot, and bitten down", just recall these words: "I am sorry for what I said to you" - and - "The line for the Confessional forms to the rear."

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