I hear it at home. I hear it when I walk the halls of middle schools and high schools. I hear it when I’m within earshot of the neighbor kids who congregate in our yard or in our home. I even hear it in the gym at church. Hear what? The barrage of “innocent” insults, “playful” put-downs, and “joking” jabs that kids exchange with each other faster than a speeding bullet. It’s a perpetual “game” of put-downs and one-ups.
And the thing is…it’s “normal.” It’s common. And it’s constant.
I don’t understand it. Really I don’t. It floors me that kids talk to each other the way they do. It mystifies me that this is acceptable. It baffles me that there is no sensitivity, no filter, no respect for each other, no appreciation, and no sense of boundaries when it comes to these mean-spirited exchanges between kids.
Again, I don’t get it. When did this become ok? How did this become normal? Why is this tolerated?
I can assure you, when I was in high school my friends and I did not have these kinds of exchanges with each other. Kids in my high school, or neighborhood, or church did not talk to each other with perpetual insults, put-downs, and jabs. And we certainly didn’t talk to our parents this way either.
Frankly, it worries me. If kids speak to each other in such rude, impolite, and offensive ways now, how will they speak to their future employers? How will they treat their spouses? How will they talk to their kids? Will they even know how to give a compliment to someone? Will they know what respect looks like? Will they be able to sympathize or empathize or share a kind word when it’s really needed?
I don’t know how we change the culture. But something’s gotta give.
When my grandmother was alive, and my cousins and I would say things mean to each other, she would always call us out. Then she’d reach into her purse and give us “kindness pills” (mysteriously disguised as Tic Tacs or Dynamints). It was her way of addressing a problem and correcting it. If we continued to say cruel or uncaring things to each other, she went beyond the “kindness pills.” Believe me when I say we didn’t want to cross Grandmother (and by the way…you didn’t dare call her Grandma!). Now, admittedly we were guilty of saying unkind things to each other every now and then just to get more candy. 🙂 But I’ll tell you something, Grandmother’s way has left a lasting impression on me.
The more I hear the verbal mistreatment of kids to each other, the more I am reminded of how the Apostle Paul encouraged people to speak to each other back in the 1st century. He said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). He also said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Somehow, some way, we’ve got to grab hold of the idea of “building others up” and letting our “conversation be always full of grace.” We’ve got to impress it on the young people of today. More than that, we’ve got to demand it!
When I think of the ways kids nowadays banter back and forth with their callous, hurtful words I think there aren’t enough “kindness pills” in the world for my grandmother to use to correct the problem. But, oh how I wish it were that simple. We can, however, buy some “kindness pills” and with kind, caring words, build someone up with our grace-filled, salty words. We might not be able to change the culture, but maybe we can change a kid or two along the way.