On the playground when most of us were children, we would often taunt others (or others would taunt us), calling each other names, saying silly things about others. The boys would say thinks like “Girls stink,” and the girls would respond with “Boys have germs,” and so on.
Then there would be the personal attacks: “Four eyes” was a common name for those with glasses, “Fatty,” “Carrot top,” “Wog,” amongst others.
The response–after we got through the initial return-name-calling, was often, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” (But the truth is names did hurt, although not physically.)
Today, as adults, our world is still often concerned with name-calling (although it’s more under the guise of labelling someone based on their background, ethnicity, behaviour, circumstances, or opinions). All too often, people believe what is said and the names stick even though the basis of the name is proven to be false. This is nothing new. Jesus speaks of how both he and John (the Baptiser) endured this barrage of name calling:
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon;’ [Jesus] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Excerpt from Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30)
O God, Hold Court in My Heart (A Reflection from StillSpeaking)
They said of John the Baptist “he has a demon.” They said of Jesus, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” With these words, Jesus is quoting those who refuse to listen to the messenger’s message about the condition of their lives, exposing their banal criticisms and contradictions. His critics, in other words, prefer to deflect, label, and demonize the messenger. It is easier, but much more destructive for a person, to place the focus on another when his or her life is in need of work.
Friends, let’s accept it now: there are people who will always be critical of you, finding fault with what you do and say. We find them in our families, churches, places of work. The labels they fling will always fly. Forget trying to change this; instead, work on yourself. Pay loving and genuine attention to your life, to your every step. This is the path to your inner wisdom and vindication.
I am convinced that neither John nor Jesus gave any credence to the opinions of their critics. Whether praised or criticised, they remain true to their core. Nothing but their inner wisdom and truth held court in their hearts and heads. By living this way they were free from the fickleness of the human tongue rendering superficial and shallow judgments about their lives.
O God, hold court in my heart, help me only to hear your true judgments about my life, and free me from the distractions of what other people think or say about me. Then shall I be set free. Amen.
–Reflection by Felix Carrion