Are there words that cut off life? That create walls between people, that stop communication and instead of fostering growth initiates a death process? Yesterday I was in the beautiful northern part of Washington state, noticing again a large tree stump. As regular readers of my blog will know, I have posted about dead stumps before. (See What good can come from an old dead stump?) But this time I have a different application.
In the past couple of days here in the United States, I’ve noticed the obvious: that there is an incredibly toxic political climate in which anything is being said about anybody. Yes, there have been toxic times before, but somehow does this seem even beyond those? I’ve noted that people on both sides of the political chasm have especially been calling the other side things like “insane”, “mentally ill”, “crazy”, “unbalanced” and worse if that is possible. And with this super-charged rhetoric has come the intimations of violence, of course vigorously denied by both sides as well.
Perhaps in the new world of social media, with tweets, endless news cycles, Facebook etc., it has not increased in amount of content from the past but in the capacity to go viral in ways we could have never imagined in previous decades. Words do kill, and they cut off life. They cause thriving, green trees to wither at their roots, and to die, becoming old, dead stumps. Words can kill the spirit, creating an environment of hate, betrayal and cycles of revenge long before the physical shooting begins. In a recent post, I wrote about what we can do when our enemies are plotting our destruction. (See How Do You Treat Someone Plotting Your Destruction?) We must realize that often we create our own enemies, or covenant relationships, depending on the words we speak into someone else’s life.
It is not enough to say that we will hit back at others if they have hit back at us. How does that help anyone? I was shocked last night to see the White House deputy press secretary, a professing evangelical believer, defend the President’s right to hit back with his vulgar tweets. That is not a political comment I am making, it is a comment of outrage at how far we have fallen from standards of decency and ethical behavior, both in society and in the Church. And yes, it is happening in both parties, on both left and right. We must do better. We are creating more and more dead stumps, people serving in politics that are losing their own souls.
But did you look closely at the photo of this dead stump? What is growing inside? Yes, as in other dead stumps (and this is why I love to take photos of “dead” stumps), there is life growing within. Even when words have killed our tree, have rotted us out from within, causing a once beautiful redwood or pine to end up as a stump, life can begin again. And that life is brought forth in our tree stump by words as well. When people speak life to us again, words of hope and encouragement. When we hear that there is indeed a future and a hope, for us as people, for us as a nation. For our world that so desperately needs hope.
What words are coming out of your mouth? Words that kill? Or words that bring life and hope? What dead stumps can you speak to today, this week, to bring forth life again? I’m praying this for Washington D.C. today. That a city of dead stumps will become a place of living fruit-bearing trees. Please pray for it with me.