As though it was yesterday I can hear the words echoing through the playground, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me.” Did I speak those words as a child or did someone say them to me in response to something I said? In many ways it is not important. The words are not true anyway.
Words can hurt. Like sticks and stones words hurt us and they hurt others. Yes, we try very hard not to allow hurtful words into our inner being, yet the reality is that words can really sting. Is this done on purpose? Maybe yes, maybe no. Perhaps at times we are simply unaware. Are hurtful words spoken out of jealousy, envy, to boost egos? Perhaps.
Jesus in the Christian scriptures (Mark 8:27-35) wondered about words that can hurt. He asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They told him yet he had an even more important question, “But who do you say that I am?” What friends think is more significanat and it wasn’t any different for Jesus. “You are the Christ,” they told him. Startled, Jesus stopped and looked at them, “Don’t tell anyone.” “Why not?” Jesus knew that standing with the poor, the outcast, the marginalized was a threat to those in authority. Goodness is a threat. He knew he would be cast aside and when he tried to tell the disciples one of them told him he wasn’t seeing things correctly, certainly no one would want to hurt him.
Others could take offense at the titles given to Jesus. Who he was could lead to being hurt, to dying. He wasn’t ready. If you follow on the same path I walk, you too could be harmed, Jesus said. Yet, it is the only way. Speaking the truth, standing up for others, being compassionate is the only way to live. Goodness is the only way. In one sense you will lose your life, Jesus told them, but in another way you will gain your life.
Often we too face decisions that require choosing the path of goodness over popularity, risk over conformity, courage over fear. We may feel as though we are losing our life, but embracing goodness leads to gaining our life in ways we could never have asked for or imagined.
Our invitation is to embrace goodness.
Blessings and peace