Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
I like words. Words are one of the things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom along with taxes, toothbrushes, clothes and deodorant. But I digress.
I have learned over time that many of the things I had heard, have been taught, and even repeated about words, are not true.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names (words) will never hurt me.”
I am sure any number of parents, teachers and other well meaning peace keepers have often used this phrase in the hope of ending violence — but it’s not true.
Over the years I have listened to pain inflicted by names or words that has never gone away. Long after bruises have faded and a wound has become a barely noticeable scar, the ragged impression left by a word remains as fresh and painful as the day it was delivered.
Another example of well intended word misinformation is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” I know the statement has been used for years as a way to promote dialogue, but the truth is really dumb questions are regularly introduced into otherwise rational discussions.
The resulting eye rolls are so violent they cause the muscles in the eye to be herniated or at least suffer severe strain.
There is at least one more potential word fallacy: It is that words, like any other commodity, have value and as such an over abundance of words may diminish their value. I use potential fallacy since it is one I am still sorting out in my own mind. I am sure I developed my original value analogy during a political season or as a result of a really long sermon.
As a matter of full disclosure, part of my coming to grips with this particular issue is the realization that not all words have value. In fact, in mathematical terms, some words would have a negative value.
I remember some months ago, after a trip to a local retail establishment, I concluded that based on use, the “F-Bomb” has become more like a social “lady finger” than a bomb. For those of you not familiar with fireworks terminology, a “lady finger” is a firecracker with barely enough power to disturb the paper it’s wrapped in.
For whatever reason, moon phase etc., the “F-Bomb” seemed to pop up in several locations, in circumstances that never require that much emotion. I realized there was no emotion involved; it was a simple habit of speech and there was no weight or value to the words.
I was once told that profanity is the crutch of a weak mind. While I am not in a position to evaluate mental acuity, and have no desire to insult anyone, I am reminded of something Matthew recorded that Jesus said. Matt 15:18 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ NIV
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.