In Parts 1 and 2 we’ve talking about name-calling and its harmful effects on both the name-called, the name caller, and everyone who hears the names that people are called. Here are a few more concluding thoughts of mine on the subject. Please share some of your thoughts.
Labels make it easier to hurt and abuse people
The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21
A friend of mine works with a Blackwater type organization fighting terrorists around the world. I love him dearly, but due to his abusive name-calling of anyone of Arab descent, I can only handle him for brief stints. “Cockroaches… Bugs… Rag Heads” is what he calls those he is paid to “stamp out.” In the Korean War it was “Gooks” on the other side. I presume that it’s easier to kill a Gook than a person. “Anchor babies” and “Illegals” (as though that’s the sum total of a human being, an illegal person) are favorite pejorative labels for immigrants, making it easier to deny them entrance into our country. If you’re of Irish descent, your grandparents were called “Potlickers” or NINAs for “No Irish Need Apply.” If you have Italian ancestors they were known as “Dagos” or “Wops” by those who wanted no part of those Catholics coming here and ruining the American ethos. Based on the claim that these new groups were educationally and culturally inferior, a drain on the economy, and politically problematic, they were given demeaning labels.
Labels are incendiary
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
People don’t like to be called names. Have you noticed? Sticks and stones may break bones but name-calling just pisses people off! Our labeling acts as an incendiary agent to create a forest fire.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3
Not only does libelous labeling burn the recipients of the labels, but think about what it does to the name-caller and his name-calling comrades. Their incendiary language inflames and denigrates their small-minded hearers. They get sucked into the vicious cycle and perpetuate it. Those who are stumbled and brought down by the labeling habit, while they’re on the ground, trip others and so on.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Proverbs 18:8
The effect of labeling is similar to that of gossip. The gossiper (and name-caller) feeds his eager hearers rancid meat, making them sick enough to vomit out the same toxic talk.
On a final and more positive note…
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4
Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult… 1 Peter 3
- By patience and a calm spirit a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft and gentle tongue breaks the bone [of resistance]. (Amplified Bible)
- Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses. (The Message Bible)
Where our harsh rhetoric fails to enact positive change, gentle speech can break down rigid defenses. Rather than inflame, a soft and gentle tongue smothers a destructive blaze.
Patient persistence topples condescending communication when it comes to changing minds for the better. That is, if we do genuinely want to change minds for the better.
James 3:9 With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness… My brothers, this should not be.
My brothers and sisters, let’s recognize something more valuable and precious resident in even the most degraded of our fellow humans. Let’s refer to one another with respect. Even if we can’t find another reason to speak well of someone, let’s see below their exterior as ones who possess even the slightest seed of God’s image. If we must put a label on people, let it be one that dignifies them and arouses the best in them and those who hear it.