“When someone loves you the way they say your name is different. You just know your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy, age 5
I read this quote on a greeting card about ten years ago and I never forgot its words of wisdom. I’ve used it ever since as a guide for examining my speech.
If I want to love my neighbor and my enemy (and I do), Billy’s standard reveals exactly how well or how poorly I’m doing. I want every name to be safe in my mouth. Even when I’m angry. Disappointed. Fearful about what will happen next.
When we hold others’ names, keeping them safe in our mouths, we reverence them and protect their dignity.
When we cheat, succumbing to the desire to feel close to another by sharing a snarky moment of superiority or revealing a truth better left unsaid, we not only expose the other, we expose ourselves as people who do not protect the dignity of others unless it’s in our own self interest.
How do others’ names sound when I speak them? How do the names of public personalities, political groups and protesters sound in my mouth? Can I keep their names safe even when I disagree with what they’re saying, or what they’ve said about me?
I pledge to protect your dignity when I speak about you, and if possible, to make amends when I fail.
I forgive you for the times you didn’t protect me with your speech.
May others know I love you by the way I say your name.
May your name always be safe in my mouth.
Reads and Other Seeds
A post for applying this principle to our social media feeds: Neither Share a Reckless Rant nor Post a Mocking Meme: Give Me a Clean Heart.
This is the second post in a series on speech and silence (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence).
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