"Rationalizing Our Words" - Monday Moment - September 12, 2022

Content Warning: Discussion of suicide


Happy Monday, my friends! Today’s Monday Moment brings me to the end of my series using the Unitarian Universalist seven principles for inspiration. The seventh principle states: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” I love this statement and the truth contained in it. In Genesis, God tells Eve and Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (1:28). Our Judeo-Christian faith tradition has placed greater emphasis on the words “subdue” and “dominion” while forgetting that we are meant to be stewards of and with creation. We have forgotten that each action we take has a ripple effect across nature. We’ve forgotten that our actions impact each other.


Working with conservative pastors and other church leaders, we often say that they should be careful with their language because they never know if the people they love might be hurt by their rhetoric and actions. Humans have an extreme capacity to rationalize our actions. Even when humans know that what they are saying or doing is problematic, we find ways to make it sound reasonable to ourselves. Once it makes sense in our own heads, we can easily play the hero or the victim as the situations present themselves. Rationalizing negates others. My words, my actions—rationalizing says—hurt no one. We fall back on the erroneous adage we were taught in elementary school: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Not true.


Words can sting, but they can also interpret and convince. There was once a high school student who was the standout nerd. A large group of students bullied him relentlessly. They left notes on his locker, knocked books out of his hands, and teased him every chance they got. One day he was leaving school, his backpack bulging and his arms full of books. The bullies once again taunted him, particularly teasing him about everything he was carrying. This time, though, another group of students saw what was happening and were tired of seeing their classmate being bullied. They stepped in and helped him carry his books to his car. He was very thankful for their help, but said the bullying was “nothing.” They disagreed. Over the next few years, they befriended him and made sure he felt validated and supported as a member of their group. On graduation day, the “nerd” was the school’s valedictorian, surrounded by his group of friends. During his speech, he told the story of how they become friends. Then he said something his friends never knew. Why was he carrying everything from his locker that day? He was intending to take his life that night, and he didn’t want his parents to have to clean out his locker. But finally, someone stood up for him and made him feel like he belonged. Words can hurt, and so can actions.


How do you feel connected to other people? How do feel connected to your environment?


Let us pray: God, help us see our connections with the people, places, and things in the world around us. Help us break the patterns of rationalizing and find the true value or harm of our words and actions. We ask this through Christ, your Word. Amen.


Blessings, my friends, on your week! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben