#ChristianLiving

Sticks, Stones, and Names Can Kill You

You remember it. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.” As I grew older I realized that this little saying was not true. Names, and the words we utter from our lips, can certainly hurt. Many people have suffered emotional harm from being called names. Beyond the emotional wounds, the root of that name-calling can cause physical harm and even death in the most destructive situations.

Recently, my husband and I were forced to discuss this painful reality at my son’s well-respected, parochial high school. The school is not perfect and still requires plenty of parental oversight, but all in all, it’s a great place for our younger son. A couple of weeks ago, we had the terrible experience of an administrator referring to our son and his friends as “thugs are us.” Of course, the Rizpah in me went a little bonkers. But I didn’t cuss. To God be the glory! My husband and I immediately requested a meeting with this administrator. Then, I called on all of my faith-filled sisters to pray for me to have three things: the love of God, the posture of Jesus, and the power and authority of the Holy Ghost.

During the meeting, the administrator explained that he had no idea “thug” was a negative, racially-charged term. In his mind, thug meant “sloppy”. Then, I asked him if there were other students in the school he had ever called “thugs are us” for having their shirt tails out. As a mom who does morning drop off, I can tell you that many of those teen boys look disheveled in the mornings with their white socks, wrinkled Khakis and untucked shirt tails. I unintentionally offended him. My question was merely to force a little self-recognition in this man. I wanted him to recognize that he had never called a group of Irish American boys in wrinkled untucked shirts… “thugs.”

My husband went on to explain that “thug” denotes criminality and it was shockingly inappropriate for the school administrator to refer to any child under his leadership as a thug. It’s a ludicrous dichotomy based on the life principles that the school purports to teach young men. It denotes an undertone of his own failure as an administrator and the ineffective culture of the school.

At that point, I asked the administrator if he had ever heard of a young man named Trayvon Martin. He said no. So, I explained that a neighborhood watchman killed Trayvon because, in his mind, Trayvon looked like a thug. His killer saw him as a “thug” who was out of place in the neighborhood. I went on to express that it frightened and angered me that this administrator saw a “thug” getting off the school bus that day in khaki pants, dress shoes, a tie and untucked shirttail.

In a culture that is moving away from God with lightning speed, the imprint of a name can leave a young man lifeless. Names can kill you. But we on #teamJesus already know that. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “a tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” And so, we lean on Ephesians 4:29, to ensure we, “Let everything we say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” God’s word gives us instruction on how and when to speak. Check out Honey and Onion for more on that topic.

As fellow Christians, the administrator and I agreed to disagree on his intention and the fundamental root of his comment. My husband, always balanced in Christ, brought the meeting to an acceptable close. My son received a sincere apology. Watching this man of God apologize to my teenage son made me realize something. We have much work to do in the body of Christ to rid ourselves of the world’s bias and to protect our hearts from the poisonous images that flood our TVs, computers, and cellphones daily.

And so, Shine TYC presses on to supply you with positive, biblically inspired content to help you live an authentic Christian life. We are Christian…seven days a week. At work, at school, at ball games, and at really tense parent meetings, it is mission critical that we have the love of God, the posture of Jesus, and the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Amen!


The 365 MOST IMPORTANT BIBLE PASSAGES FOR MOTHERS provides insights and applications to help readers understand the context and nuances found in Bible passages and how they relate to parenting and motherhood.

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