By Brenda Black
Careless words. Carefully guarded words. Profound words. When I asked my friends what they thought I should write about this week, I received a variety of ideas. Though most sounded quite isolated and unrelated, the Lord revealed something powerfully connected from among a sampling of opinions. The message: There is power in the tongue of the young – for better or for worse.
The bad news first. Youth culture has abbreviated the English language to fragmented acrostics and basically butchered spelling through rushed text messages and tiny keyboards. All too often, instead of setting a better example, adults begin to follow the contemporary habits of those younger. Like many things turned upside down in this world today, where once the spoken word made its way onto the typed page, now the type makes its way into oral conversation. My BFFs and those who like to LOL may find nothing wrong with such patterns. But it seems these days that everything is trivialized and casual to the extent that words lack deep meaning.
As one friend remarked, “One of my pet peeves is people saying 'good luck' or 'knock on wood.'” She sees the flippant banter as carelessness with words. “What do those words really mean? NOTHING! We've traded God's blessings for societal sayings that mean nothing.”
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”( Hebrews 13:15)
The tough news next. Our young people face a hostile culture where wrong is glorified as right and right is shamed into suffocating corners. Their words, no matter how kind or true or meaningful can be stifled by ignorant and hateful intimidation.
A story related by friend number two tells of a 14-year old girl from California. In one afternoon, the adult learned just how much pressure this girl endures. “She had some of the best questions about current news events that I'd been asked lately. She wanted to know my opinion about DOMA, the Zimmerman trial and race relations in this country. She expressed that growing up in California and going to public school that she had to watch that she didn't express her conservative religious views to the wrong people! I couldn't help but see how much it really bothered her to watch everything she said or be taken out of context.”
May godly wisdom be this child's armor so that she doesn't fall prey to wickedness. I pray she dwells on Psalm 141:3-4 and follows the instruction to “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.”
Lest you think American youth are the only ones who face pressure, then you haven't seen the powerful interview of a 12 year old Egyptian. Ali Ahmed lives in the midst of a revolution, but stands for what he knows is right. As an opposition protestor, he explains with amazing eloquence why over 20 million Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest Mohammed Morsi's government. He calls out ignorance, bad politics and misguided social behavior. You can view his highly intelligent and insightful interview below.
As yet another friend said, “We are blessed to be sheltered from this turmoil, but at the same time our children are busy with stupid things. He knows more at 12 than most adults here.”
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:34b-36)
Our children need adults who'll speak truth and talk of things that have eternal value. And they need courage to carry that verbal baton for the next generation and not falter. Paul advised a young follower many years ago to watch the tongue. “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21a)
And he closes his thoughts with the same blessing I extend to our youth – “Grace be with you.” May you use your words for good.