When was the last time you took a leap and yelled, “Geronimo!”?
Or the last time you complained because somebody ‘gypped’ you or tried to ‘jew’ you down?
Language has to power to leave a lasting impression. Sometimes, that impression programs us to think differently about other people without us even realizing it. The etymology (history) of the word ‘gyp’ leads back to the word ‘Gypsy.’ Using that term may cause the hearer or the user to conjure up a stereotype of a swindling Gypsy.
To ‘jew down’ the price perpetuates the stereotype of Jews as moneylenders with usurious rates.
And while little kids may gleefully shout ‘Geronimo!’ as they leap from place to place, do they really understand anything about Geronimo? This Chiricahua Apache Chief dedicated his life to seeking justice for his people from the white invaders who threatened his homeland and offered bounties for his people’s scalps—in the 20th Century.
Words and actions have the power to leave wounds that last in the psyche of the marginalized. As unbiased and unprejudiced as I like to think I am, I recently realized I unintentionally used microaggressions that perpetuated stereotypes.
While talking to a colleague about a friend of mine who has toddlers ten months apart, I jokingly referred to her children as ‘Irish twins.’
“I’m Irish,” my colleague said.
At that moment I wanted to yank my foot out of my mouth. I had no idea she had Irish roots, nor that using the term ‘Irish twins’ could come across as insulting. But it did—it perpetuated the stereotype about the Irish and prolific families.
As Christians, we want love to leave the last impression with our words, not offensive stereotypes.
Jesus Calls Us to a Higher Standard
And while some people may rail at the idea of microaggressions and white privilege, we have to realize Jesus calls us to a higher standard than the world. As Christians, we should lead the charge for equality, social justice, and loving everyone—not just the people who look and talk like us.Christians should lead the charge for equality, social justice, and loving the marginalized. #socialjustice #christian Click To Tweet
If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!Luke 6:32
Jesus doesn’t waste any words about his expectations:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”John 13:34-35
Loving everyone means learning to speak in ways that build them up rather than tear them down. If you want your words to last, speak them in love.