My folks repeated that saying to me whenever I was called names. As catchy as it is, I didn’t find much comfort in it. Sometimes names and words can hit you like a shot in the heart. They can stick in one’s memory, too. I still remember the day my brother called me “bow-legged”, and that was in the first grade!
Christ Jesus thought words were important. He firmly rejected calling people by names that, today, we might not consider so bad; but to him they were pretty offensive. One word was raca, an Aramaic term of mild contempt meaning good-for-nothing. He declared it even worse to call someone a fool.
Obscene words are intended to stir up a reaction. And when they come in the form of anonymous phone calls, they are an invasion of one’s personal space and tend to induce anger.
I was getting a rash of such calls. At first, I was a bit annoyed – a mild form of anger - and I followed the phone company’s recommendation of just hanging up. But the calls kept coming like blue jays dive-bombing a cat. They caught me off guard each time.
My anger escalated in proportion to the calls. I shouted, “You need to get some help!” Of course, stirring me up was the caller’s intent. So the disturbance continued.
Then I decided I was going about this all wrong. I could tackle this problem with prayer. I thought about a revolutionary statement made by Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She wrote, “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.” (p. 477)
Jesus’ knew just one kind of man - God’s perfect man, created in His image and reflecting the purity and goodness of the divine Spirit that is God. Where others saw sick, foolish, inconsiderate, hateful, troublesome people, Christ Jesus looked for the child of God. And he saw through the sometimes noisy, aggressive and unkind behavior, to the true heart of man.
Because I prayed before the calls, I knew I would respond to the next one with an understanding of man’s innocence firmly in thought. This time the call was made by a young boy. I didn’t even think about what he said. I just told him he didn’t really want to make calls like this, and he hung up.
A few minutes later the phone rang again. I was tempted not to answer it, but I did. It was this same boy, this time calling in tears. He said, “I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again. I’m bad.”
I reassured him that he was not bad. I told him he was very good. I had already seen him as good before he even called! So I knew it was true and could say it with honest conviction. I was certain that he would not make any more such calls.
This happened many years ago. And in all the time since, I have never had another obscene call.
Here’s a fresh take on that childhood proverb:
When words are thrown like sticks and stones, Jesus’ example can bring you peace.
Kay Olson CSB is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. She welcomes your feedback in the comments and would be happy to correspond with you directly, if you prefer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.