August 20, 2010

Na Na Na Na Boo Boo

A group of friends from high school gathered recently, and the topic soon turned to a classmate who had died unexpectedly a few months ago. He was the kind of guy who everybody liked, even if we didn't know him well. He had a kind, gentle spirit, and was always thoughtful and polite.

Someone brought up the fact that the name we had known him by in high school was not the name he had always had. He had actually changed both his first and last names - as well as his school - when we were still in grade school. I had first known him at the first school, when he went by the original name.

The person telling this story said he had hated that name because kids in our class had come up with a rhyme to make fun of him. While I don't remember that, it didn't surprise me. I clearly remember the day in 7th grade when I realized he was the same guy I had once known by another name. We were in our French class, and I guess the teacher had left the room for a couple of minutes because one of the girls yelled at him across the room, asking why he had changed his name. At first, he looked kind of stunned, then I realized the expression was one of pain. The girl who was questioning him was relentless, but he did not respond in anger or even defensiveness. He tried to avoid answering her at first, but when it soon became evident that she would not let it go, he graciously gave her an explanation that satisfied her. I don't remember the subject ever coming up again.

Back to the recent gathering of friends, naturally the conversation turned towards the cruelty of children, and the names they can come up with. I found myself wondering if name-calling is something we really outgrow. Does it just take on a new form?

We argue about so much on both a local and national level, often stooping to name-calling. My city has had a new mayor since last December and he and our City Council are constantly fighting one another, accomplishing precious little for our city. It's not even partisan bickering, as some of the councilors who are yelling the loudest belong to the same party as our mayor. Nationally, the House of Representatives and the Senate are no better. The cable networks fuel the fighting, from both the left and the right. And all that arguing often degenerates into name-calling.

I keep wondering where the grownups are. When will we get past this period where we fight over everything?

It's going to take people who are willing to discuss our problems calmly and respectfully, even with those with whom they disagree. It's going to take people who are willing to hear each other's views, not just shout over them. It's going to take people with the courage of that 7th grade boy to graciously respond to an attack instead of striking back. It's going to take people who are willing to act like adults, and not children.

Until next time,

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~ I Corinthians 13:11


  1. I completely agree and I think that Corinthians message certainly fits here! I don't agree with most of my friends politically but if we had to buckle down and get something done, I am convinced we could all work together because we have that mutual respect and dedication to work for a larger purpose.

    Hope some people read and understand this message!

    Also very sorry about your friend/classmate. I can relate.

  2. Thanks, Erin. There was a time when even the politicians would buckle down and work together to get things done. I'm not sure if the problems started with them, or with the voters back home, but somewhere along the way, we lost our way.

  3. I agree... for some reason, we adults have a way of taking other people's personal opinions personally. Why we can't respect eachother's differences, I'll never know!

  4. The pace of life today coupled with financial meltdowns and unemployment has left many to finger pointing, fault finding and on-edge temper tantrums. That's not an excuse, and I agree with you Margaret - civil discourse, in just about every topic in government and news has taken a back seat. The message of Corinthians has never been more appropriate than it is now.

  5. I agree, Paula. The fears generated by our current economic problems have definitely exacerbated a bad situation, one that was already in the making when times were better.

  6. There are so many people clamering for a spot in the public forum that its like they are all shouting in order to be heard. They don't seem to care about what they are shouting so long as the public is looking at them.

  7. What a kind, and generous, person that 7th grade boy was. I hope that whatever rotten thing the kids came up with that tormented him did not follow him to the new school.

    We do need to get over ourselves, don't we? Stop taking things so personally? It's hard to do, because part of us always thinks "It's always about me." And part of us thinks the other person is intentionally "making it personal." If we can remain calm, and try to be objective - wow. Maybe we might accomplish something in our local politics - and in other areas, too!

  8. it hurt to hear the story . . . about bob? cruelty is my
    least favorite attribute, and it makes me angry to see
    so much of it.

    i wish i had been braver in school to stick up for the
    ones who were picked on.

    this is such a great post!

  9. Great post. We had our opening worship service at the faith-based college I work at last evening. The chaplain touched on this very verse and the maturity and growth our students will face in the coming years.

  10. What a shame that the guy had to change his name!!!

    And I've always loved that quote. Way too many adults do NOT put away childish things.

  11. Great post. I remember all too well the name calling and bullying from junior high. Walking through the halls at my church now I pass one of the worst bullies I went to school with. I know he grew up and changed - but man does it still sting every time I see him.

    I agree we as adults still name call - we just call it by a different name.