Maybe it’s because I’m “sensitive.”  That’s what my family always complained about me.  My favorite professor said my sensitivity is what makes me a good writer.


Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and words are important to me, powerful to me.  Just a few moments ago, I heard a poem on the radio, Puttanesca by Michael Heffernan.  The words that caught my ears were simple — “a street walker’s sweat.” 

Words like that stun me with their beauty that comes from their vividness.  They encourage me.  They make me want to do better, be better.  Not just a better writer, but a better person … someone who is worthy of such poetry.

When I was a student at Baylor University, I remember learning the meaning of a specific New Testament Bible verse, which unfortunately I can’t find right now, though it’s in something like Galatians or Ephesians.  But that verse, in its original language, said that we are God’s poetry. 

I think about that verse and I think about how hard I work on my words for a book, how I write them, read them, rewrite them, rework them, leave them alone, polish them, and try to perfect them over and over again, each time with love, passion, and desire.  And if I do that for my words, and if we’re God’s poetry, oh, my gosh, how He works, polishes, and loves us. 

So maybe it’s because I’m a Christian and I hear Bible verses in my head. 
* * *
Behold the ships also,
through they are great and are driven by strong winds,
are still directed by a very small rudder,
wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 
So also the tongue is a small part of the body,
and yet it boasts of great things. 
Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 
And the tongue is fire, the very world of inequity;
the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life,
and is set on fire by hell. 
For every species of beasts and birds,
of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed,
and has been tamed by the human race. 
But no one can tame the tongue;
it is restless evil and full of deadly poison.
James 3:4-8
* * *
I think about that passage whenever I lose myself and spew poison words and watch the faces of my victims.  Sometimes they cower.  Sometimes they cry.  Others turn away.  And still more rage back or turn my rage onto others.  I know I do this when I’m restless with exhaustion or frustration, but that’s not acceptable.  So I want to grab my words out of the air and force them back into my body, but that’s like trying to grab a firefly in the daylight.  It’s just not going to happen. 

What I’m trying to say is that it’s the words that get to me.  Specifically, it’s the name-calling words that get to me.

I hear it a lot in myself.  I hear it a lot on TV.  When I do, I wonder what kind of example we’re setting for our children  — that it’s okay to spew hate-filled words just for the sake venting, for the chance to rage and get on TV, to start and have a career as a pundit or reality TV star.  I hear it even more on radio.  I remember I heard it on the radio the morning after the Fort Hood shooting, as I was driving down I-35, returning to Killeen and the hospital where the injured and dying had been taken. 

Strangely enough, I didn’t hear it from the doctors and nurses who frantically worked to save lives.  I saw exhausted smiles of pride over the lives they had saved.  And I didn’t hear it from the victims who lived to tell their stories of that horrible day.  I heard gratitude.

But on the radio, from people who were miles from the blood and the death, I heard it.  Perhaps it was understandable.  That’s not the way it came across, though.  It came across as trying to stir up people for ratings and advertising dollars. 

What really gets to me, though, is the every day name-calling.   I’m not talking name-calling against people like Major Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter.  I’m talking about name-calling that’s screamed and shouted under the guise of  freedom of speech in the name of trying to save our nation from … whichever side they think is wrong and they’re right.  I’m talking name-calling and hate in the name of superiority, name-calling and hate in the name of righteousness, name-calling and hate out of fear. 

Do not fear, for I am with you.  I will bless you …

Genesis 26:24

I read it a lot on newspaper websites, where people can anonymously vent their anger, rage, insanity, and hate.  And I read it a lot on Facebook.  I think that’s where it gets to me the most — reading name-calling from my friends. 

All I know is that it makes me lose respect for those I once admired, just like I lose respect for myself when I do it.  I don’t want to lose respect for them … or for me.  I know they are smart people.  I know I’m smart.  I know they are kind, giving, and gracious people in the majority of their lives.  I’d like to think I’m kind, giving and gracious in the majority of my life.  But, when it comes to politics, we become the very essence of what we’re accusing the other side of being. 

Like Puntanessca, such words stun me.  Unlike Puttanesca, such words don’t encourage me.  They don’t make me want to do better, be better.  Sometimes, they make me want to … give up.  And maybe that’s what name-callers want … for those they call names to give up.  I know that’s what I want when I’m raging at someone.  But I also know that more often, when someone spews names at me, I spew back that poisoned venom.

I guess for that very reason I can’t give up.  Nor can I spew back.  After all, I’m God’s poetry — written, read, rewritten, reworked, trying to get perfected. 

*  I wrote this last March and revamped it and rewrote it in May.  I don’t think I ever had any intention of ever posting it.  And maybe I shouldn’t be posting it now because it may be too similar to I Don’t Know Where to Start.  Yet that very blog post, I Don’t Know Where to Start — specifically some of the comments posted here — is what motivated me to go ahead and publish this.  Forgive me if you find it redundant.

  1. stella Reply
    Suzy, Thank you for sharing. You are right. We can't give up, even when our head hurts from its repeated banging against that brick wall of hateful speech. Guess it is a good thing to be hard-headed after all? -stella
    • Suzy Reply
      :), Stella
  2. candace Reply
    I have to say, I had a similar conversation with the head master of my children's "christian" school, his wife often remarks that Obama is the antichrist, and says "we all know what his middle name is". My objection is that this is no place for political views unless it is a political science class, which it is not. I said I thought teachers constantly spouting their political views and breeding hate was inappropriate for JH. He said they encourage the children to be politically active, I said it is causing problems between the children who don't like this type of speech, and we should be teaching respect for other people and their views. How can our children have this if adults in America cannot disagree on health care without making racial slurs and spouting hate! I agree words are powerful and have lasting effects on people. Great post
    • Suzy Reply
      Thank you, Candace.
  3. Charles Yerkes Reply
    I agree with this more than words can say. One of the things that bothers me, in conjunction with the whole name calling thing, is when one set of folks seems to get a pass with torrents of such hate filled speech, and then they shrilly accuse others of it. This most often happens in the political arena. But it happens elsewhere as well. This, in the truest sense, is a great hypocrisy. But I am right there with you sister. Well spoken, or rather, writen. Charles
    • Suzy Reply
      Thank you, Charles.
  4. Angela Reply
    Fear is the root of most evil. The fear motivates people to lash out at a "safe" target when they can't or won't directly confront the real source of their fear. That leads to a frenzy of all types of harmful speech, behavior and beliefs that people hope will insulate or save them from the source of their fear. I have a friend that places a tagline on his email that says "Fear is the place we go to learn". It is sad that all the folks who engage in this hatemongering of whatever flavor are refusing to go learn....about themselves, about reality, about responsibility, about fill in the blank. Mostly I suspect they fear to learn about themselves, they fear accepting responsibility for shaping their lives. It is so soothing to assign the blame to others rather than face your fears and accept responsibility for dealing with them.
    • Suzy Reply
      Angela, once again, you amaze me and impress me. Thank you.

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