The Atlantic magazine reported last week that President Donald J. Trump dishonored U.S. soldiers and veterans when he referred to soldiers killed in action as “losers” and “suckers.”
The White House denied the claims, but former Chief of Staff John Kelly has neither denied nor confirmed the president’s comments. Kelly was supposedly present when the president allegedly uttered the deeply offensive remarks.
The president has a reputation for saying exactly what is on his mind. Avid Trump supporters praise the president for being blunt and plain-spoken. They admire that he speaks freely without any regard for consequences.
However, the president is anything but plain-spoken. Plain speech must possess at least some semblance of truth and decency. Trump’s speech possesses neither.
More than anything, the president seems to think of only one person, himself, when he speaks. If he likes what he says, then he considers his comments righteous and true even when they are offensive or false.
In some cases, the president’s rhetoric can be deeply offensive. He often uses a person’s physical appearance as a premise for his insults.
Like a schoolyard bully, he targets physical attributes, attacking a person for their height, weight or age. He has gone as far as making fun of a male reporter with a disability.
However, his favorite targets by far are women. He uses racial slurs and descriptions to spew his venom.
Before running for president, Trump told a reporter he could do anything he wanted to women since he was famous, even forcibly grabbing their genitalia. He continues to call U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” and other women “nasty” if they dare stand up to him.
In addition, the president disregards the notion there are always consequences for using disparaging language. While this president seems to have been wearing Teflon for most of his career, the wake of shattered and ruined lives is long.
Many individuals who believed the president was trustworthy find themselves in either financial or legal trouble. The president’s words are laced with half-truths and lies, undermining his actions and causing severe consequences for others.
Listen to the words of James, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body” (James 3:5-6).
He goes on, “But no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless the Lord and Father, and with it, we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 3:8-10).
James equates an undisciplined tongue with a small spark that ignites a great blaze causing an enormous amount of destruction. In other words, the use of language and words matter a great deal.
As people of good faith, we should heed the wisdom of Proverbs, when the author writes, “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
And this pearl, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19).
And finally, this universal truth, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).
These writers knew the direct consequences of an unruly and untrustworthy tongue. They knew a person’s honesty coupled with decency provided the best path forward for all occasions.
Again, words matter. Why?
When John wrote his Gospel, he began with one of the most significant metaphors the world has ever heard, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Listen to it again and think about each word for a moment, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Why do words matter? Because they gain life when breathed.
For Christians, the Word of God was incarnated into the life and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus spoke with honesty and decency. He spoke with love and inclusion. He spoke with grace and mercy. He spoke with righteousness and justice.
When he did use stern language, it was for the cause of the truly oppressed and marginalized. His words did not have an audience of one, but an eternal audience in need of love, freedom and justice.
Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, wrote, “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”
Therefore, let me end with a few important questions. What do the words of President Donald J. Trump reveal about his meaning and purpose? What is his message when he calls dead soldiers “losers” and strong women “nasty”? Do the words of the president echo the words of Jesus?
Words matter because there are always consequences.
CEO of Good Faith Media.