Dateline had a special last night on adolescent girls and the growing trend of emotional attack in schools.  I watched the show with Erica, who confirmed that most of what the special presented was present in the middle school where she teaches.  The girls would steal another’s instant messenger name and modify a conversation, alter pictures from xanga, or send explicit text messeges to people in the middle of class calling another person a  “bitch”, “skank”, etc…  To be honest: it pissed me off.

Erica’s younger brother has a friend at school who I have met a couple of times.  She and her family came to our wedding, and they had to be about the warmest family I have ever met. Well, shortly after our wedding, a kid at school stole Erica’s brother’s IM name and used to lie to this friend from our wedding, telling her that he only danced with her at the wedding because her family has money.  I don’t think parents realize what their kids are up to; and kids don’t seem to understand how painful words can be.  It makes me think of what James says:

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

-taken from Eugene Peterson’s The Message

After the show, I remembered a girl from my middle school days.  Her name was Christy.  She was a flirty older girl who was trying to fit in with the “cool” kids of the youthgroup – a group led by a couple of pastor’s kids (PK’s in Christianease).  After youthgroup we were all hanging out and one of the cool kids joked, “Christy, you’re like peanut butter.  You spread easily.”  Everyone laughed, including me.  It’s one of those situations where everyone else is laughing and so you do too so that no one will think you are on the outside of their inside joke.  The next week I decided that I would notch myself up in the ranks of coolness by taking the inside joke that I didn’t get to the next level…and I brought a jar of peanute butter to youthgroup to give to Christy.  She broke down in tears.  I can still remember the sick feeling I got when my youth paster met with us in his office and explained what the meaning behind those words were.  I am turning red with embarrasement even now at my own ignorance and stupidity.  One of the girls from the Dateline special said something along the lines of, “Sometimes I don’t realize that the words I send are actually read by someone else.”  But they are.

Christy’s story doesn’t end there.  She fell into the mold prepared for her by our stupidity by sleeping with a guy at church camp.  They had a child together and the young man eventually asked her to marry him.  The last time I saw them they were still involved in that same church and have a loving home.  Praise God Christy’s narrative has a happy ending; but for every one positive outcome there are 10 stories that end in pain, brokenness, and when it comes to Christians, a false view of God’s ambassadors on this earth.