“Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
―Proverbs 12:18, NIV
No Laughing Matter
“Fatty, fatty, two-by-four, can’t fit through the bathroom door.”
Most of us experienced some degree of harassment as a child. In my generation, being targeted with taunts such as this one, called disparaging names, or butted with cruel jokes was often regarded as “harmless child’s play” or “teasing.” While the perpetrator walked away scot-free, the victim, made a laughing stock, had no other recourse than to shout: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Unkind words do hurt; they leave gaping wounds in one’s soul and inflict profound emotional scars. Children within earshot of verbal malice often perceive the words they hear as truth. Graver still, with enough repetition, the abused victims begin to believe the lies about themselves. Yes, words can cut deeply―even when untrue.
Bullying is a daily occurrence in our culture. About half of today’s teenagers have been victims of physical, verbal or cyber bullying. Bullying is on the upswing in our schools, especially among lower grade girls. According to a 2014 UCLA psychology study, twenty-eight percent of sixth through twelfth graders are the victims of bullying and thirty percent admit to being bullies themselves. Every day, approximately 160,000 teens drop out of school due to this growing epidemic. A more somber finding is that seventy-five percent of school shootings are linked to the prior harassment and bullying of the shooter.
Society often calculates an individual’s worth according to their appearance or accomplishments. We see this play out daily as our culture rewards those who are attractive, well educated, and talented, while others ache for someone to invite them to participate in life. Anyone can be the subject of bullying, but those with developmental disabilities, or those looked on as different are easy prey for tyrants who wish to elevate themselves in the eyes of others.
As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I have firsthand experience with the heartbreak of children labeled “different” and considered “less than.” I’ve also seen the delight in their eyes when others reach out to include them in activities. Proverbs tells us the tongue holds the power of life and death; we can choose to use our tongues to perpetrate suffering or to administer healing.
We’re all different, and different is good. God created each of us with a unique personality and granted us varying gifts. Those willing to invest themselves in socially challenged individuals will discover their refreshing inner qualities: unconditional love, a desire to please, pride in a job well done, sincere empathy, selflessness, the voice of truth, and unlimited forgiveness.
Let’s celebrate the beauty of our differences and unite with others to accomplish the tasks God sets before us. Even in our diversity, we'll find we’re more alike than different. Because of our differences, we’ll recognize our need for one another, and within our weaknesses, we'll find our need for God.
Now it's your turn. Has your life been enriched by someone with a disability? If so, please share how.
I always welcome your comments.
Day 21: My 500 Words ~ 525words
Challenge: Write about justice