We all remember a time when someone said something that we will never forget. Most of the time, it’s something that didn’t just prick us or shock us, but rather, it’s something that lives within us. It’s like a thorn in our side that makes us feel inadequate and misunderstood. I don’t mean the misunderstood that a teenager feels when their parents won’t extend their curfew. The misunderstood feeling I’m talking about is this yearning to be accepted, understood and loved.
For me, there is a word that invokes this sort of feeling. As someone who converted to Christianity a little over two years ago, and underwent a radical change from an atheist and party girl to someone loves Jesus, the world “religious” gets to me.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the word religious, but I know that much of the time when someone asks me if I’m really religious, they’re actually wondering if I’m ritualistic and dogmatic. These words seem to have all become dirty words in our society.
I am ritualistic, in that I go to church weekly, and pray and read the Bible daily. I am dogmatic, in that I interpret the Bible as the true and living word of God, much like St. Augustine would. But as a Christian, my religion is not my rituals or my dogma. My religion is a relationship with who I believe to be the God of the universe and Savior of mankind.
What words haunt you? The words that haunt you may be the N-word or the F-word. Or maybe the word that haunts you is HIV+, AIDS, whore, or prostitute. We all have words that haunt us.
I think if anything, the lesson I’m learning is that words can be used to hurt people, but more importantly, words can be used to speak life into people. I write speak into because the words we speak have the power to live within another person. This sounds rather idealistic, but whether or not we admit it to ourselves, we all seem to live in a way that presupposes that there is a “perfect” or “ideal” way.
We volunteer at homeless shelters because the world would be better if everyone had a home they could call their own. We work to spread awareness about important issues because it would be better if people knew about them. We vote the way we vote because it would be better if our laws were a certain way.
We all have a certain notion of what a perfect and ideal world looks like and we attempt to live according to those standards. It’s okay that we’re different. It’s okay that we think differently. It’s okay that we live differently. It’s okay that we vote differently. It’s okay that we’re incredibly passionate about different things, even opposing things.
What would it look like if the words we speak into our family, friends and enemies actually built them up into the person they are meant to be? What would it look like if we actually lived to intentionally speak life into others who believe and live completely differently than we do?
The world would be a much better place.