This morning my son sat on my lap as we watched Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech. I’m so thankful that our world has come such a long way in light of racism in our country. It’s much more personal now as I have a son who is 1/4 African American. Not that I didn’t care before but we always take it more personally when it hits directly at home. And although we’ve come a long way, there is a long way to go. Even as we looked at the school ratings this week in Portland the schools that have a higher percentage of African American students is lower. Why? Why is there still such segregation in our schools and neighborhoods today? And then there’s the NFL game debacle from last night. I haven’t done much reading on it although really appreciated the insight in this quick read on Forbes. I also only watched about 20 minutes of the game (which was very exciting) and watched both teams play their hearts out, they both made mistakes (ref’s rarely lose a game for a team. Just saying.), and in the end a team came out on top and was ecstatic to have won.
And then, there was the very brief, very passionate interview with Richard Sherman. Immediately I laughed and then said to my husband, “Oh no, that may have been a dumb thing to do.” Not because I thought he was wrong in what he said or was even vulgar in doing so (you may disagree and that’s fine) but I knew that it was going to hit twitter and the social media world like a storm. And it did. A victory that was well fought and a team that worked hard all year was somewhat overshadowed by their teammates excitement for winning. Our world is so quick to want to bash people for their wrong-doings (or perceived wrong- doings). Many racist comments hit the internet, and many of the comments flying around Facebook and the Twittersphere about Sherman’s words being so classless (He wore a bow tie after the game. I love that class.) and gave a rant of their own, only to really show that their words may not have been very kind or showed discretion either.
I’m so thankful that someone doesn’t follow me around and put ill timed, overly passionate, and sometimes stupid things I say on line. I (and you for that matter) would be horrified. My mouth can be my worst enemy. In fact when my husband and I were first married and playing card games with my family I called him a stupid ass and he threatened to never play games with me again. Yep, I’m super competitive and it gets the best of me sometimes just like it does others, especially NFL players.
Here’s what I know, our words do have impact for better or for worse. I’m so thankful that Martin Luther King Jr. did in fact have a dream and used his words and actions to change the course of history. I want to teach my kids that their words do indeed have an impact and we have to be cautious in how we use them. But when we do say things that we shouldn’t (and I’m not saying that Sherman should or shouldn’t have said those things) there is grace. I tell my students all the time that a good reputation can take years to build and it only takes moments to tear it down. But there’s still grace. And friends, if you are a Christ-follower, be an avenue of grace to others. I’m not saying we don’t speak truth and there aren’t repercussions for our actions but there is always grace in the process. As much as I want things to be black and white, right or wrong, that thinking can sometimes make us react too harshly to life in general. I’m working on not just writing people off because this one time, they said this one thing, and they really made me angry and they are forever stupid and not worth my time.
I am one who says things I shouldn’t often, uses my words in a very dramatic fashion most of the time, and yet I really do have a heart to please God and serve others well with my words and life even if it doesn’t always appear that way. May we use today as we remember the great words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the conversation of the over-talked about (in my opinion) words of Sherman last night to remind us to use our words wisely. Be an avenue of grace and truth to others. After-all, I’m so glad that God is so gracious with us.