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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Verbal Abuse: Is it Just Talk?

Photo by: pl2iyawit

The soccer player (footballer) is fined and suspended three games for saying something derogatory to a fellow player.

Soccer fans are banned from the next game for chanting.

Service personnel were verbally taunted for belonging to the armed forces.

These stories are from last week’s news. Each time, the incident was called “abuse.”

Now, I am the first to agree that none of these scenes is appropriate. They are unkind and unwarranted. There is no reason to be nasty to anyone, no matter what you think. When you say something unkind to another, it is simply not right. It’s in bad taste and just plain wrong.

When I was nine, I remember being made fun of. It hurt. It hurt so badly that I would come home from school crying. No one ever called it “verbal abuse.” My mother comforted me and told me the other girl had no idea what she was talking about, and that I should ignore her ignorant remarks. I needed to be stronger than she. My mother may have even called my teacher, but I don’t know.

Today, a grown-up soccer player can’t ignore that another player said something unkind? No. It was “abuse.”

The offended person hurts, no doubt. No one would say otherwise. And, no one would defend those who say such things.

But I wonder what ever happened to bucking up, taking it like a man, letting the water run off your back, and just plain ignoring those whose actions don’t deserve a response?

Is name-calling abuse?

My four-year-old came running into the house and said, “He called me a (nasty name)!” My little guy was upset. He was mostly upset because he didn’t understand the word the other boy used. I explained to my son that sadly, a lot of little boys say nasty things to each other. They don’t mean anything by it; they say those ugly things to everyone. Just forget it . . . and don’t you ever say that word! He ran back out to play with his little buddies again.

I could have responded (though I never would have thought of such a thing back then), “You are being verbally abused. That is the worst thing that child could do to you. You are a victim. Blah. Blah. Blah.” And my little boy would either have cried or gotten angry. He wouldn’t have felt confident enough to go back out and play with the same friends again.

The definition of abuse is “to treat with cruelty or violence, especially repeatedly.”*

There is such a thing as verbal abuse. I think of the woman who is continually beat down by her husband. He treats her despicably in public and in private. She is never right; she never does anything well enough. Every meal she cooks is bad, he says, and every action is put down. This is verbal and emotional abuse.

But when one grown man calls another one an ugly name in the middle of a soccer match, one would think he could just ignore the affront. One would think that professional soccer players would be used to big boy banter, be it kind or not.

Chanting ugliness by fans should be disciplined, because it’s public and in a group. When we go to a sports game, we want to be able to enjoy the sport, not be subjected to shouted, narrow-minded expressions.

No one should be ugly to any other person, no matter his ethnicity, religion, profession, or physical appearance.

Let’s look at some biblical guidelines for our actions and reactions.

  • And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
  • She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26).
  • Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).

  • And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also (Luke 6:29, also in Matthew 5:29).
  • But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44, also in Luke 6:28).
  • For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people (Hebrews 10:30).
  • The example of Jesus, Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (1 Peter 2:23). 

Can you see the difference in today’s victim mentality and the teachings of the Lord? First of all, we should treat people with kindness, in word and actions. If we are cursed, we’re to bless. If someone hits us, we’re to offer the other cheek—and our coat! If we feel like wreaking vengeance, we’re to leave that completely to God. If we are reviled, we’re to be quiet and non-threatening, and leave the judgment to God.

These concepts are not always easy to put into practice. Maybe we can begin, though, the next time someone calls us an ugly name.

* Just for the record, I believe bullying—repeated, demeaning verbal attacks—is abuse. That’s not what this post is talking about.

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