Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words…

22 Mar

Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

On the playgrounds of our youth we heard the chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Many of us, however, felt the painful truth that words can cut to the quick.

On the campuses where we serve in ministry, we still see the painful effect of words in the lives of our students. Some suffer silently as someone says, “That’s so gay.” Others feel the bitter sting of language containing racist barbs. Many of our students have had the painful experience of being harshly judged and ridiculed by the street preachers who frequent the campus.

In this highly charged political season we also find it hard to escape the venom and vitriol being reported through the plethora of media outlets that surround us. Even though we are surrounded by such highly charged language and rhetoric, we can choose how we respond. We can also help our students learn that they have a choice in how they respond, too.

I have discovered that collegiate ministry provides ample opportunity to model healthy dialogue, even if the parties involved are not in agreement on an issue. We can help our students to work through differences with respect and honor for the other person. We have an opportunity to discover that we need our many points of view so that we may all grow in our understanding of community and of our relationship with the “otherness” of God. We need the views of the left and the right, conservative and progressive, female and male, gay and straight, and the many colors that make our world interesting and beautiful.

In our faith communities, we can examine together what the inner sources of our ideas and beliefs are and explore why we believe as we do. We can find what it is about our faith in God that moves us. How is the Holy Spirit breathing new life us so that we can discover our better selves. We can also take the time to listen to the stories of why our sisters and brothers believe as they do.

As we learn to practice active listening and the use of words that build up community within the context of our ministry, our students can put that into action in the campus and world around us.

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Tim Kobler is the Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has been serving in campus ministry for ten years. Tim received his Bachelor of Music degree from Southern Illinois University,  Carbondale, and his M.Div. from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He is a self-avowed computer and gadget geek. He is also the father of Clara (16) and Andrew (12).

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One Response to “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words…”

  1. mark lloyd richardson March 22, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    It is so important to build the kind of respectful community and dialogue you mention. It makes a real difference!

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