The kids seemed almost perfect.
There were five of them. They sat straight up, head forward. At first, I thought it was because they had to be the most amazing kids ever. But then I saw the strap. It was leather and thin. The mama held it in her right hand. A child whispered to her sibling. The strap slipped out like a snake and . . . thwack. A small red mark appeared on the child’s arm. Her brother shifted in his seat. The strap snuck out again. . . thwack. Right on his thigh. Another red mark.
If I hadn’t been right behind them, and at the angle that I was, I wouldn’t have seen it. It was quick. It was almost silent. If you’ve ever been abused, you are hypersensitive to it. I didn’t know what to do.
This story happened nearly 30 years ago. Rather than speak to the woman directly, I privately sought out someone in leadership and shared what I had seen. They promised to talk with her and counsel this family.
Shortly after that the strap went away.
I don’t often write things that I believe will cause controversy. It’s not who I am. This really isn’t a conversation about spanking or not spanking. It’s really not even about the story I shared from 30 years ago.
It’s that we are turning into a thwacking society — even among those who love Jesus. We aren’t thwacking people with our fists or a leather strap, but verbally.
You don’t believe like me? Thwack.
You are on this side or that side of politics? Thwack.
You share that you are struggling to know what is true. Thwack.
You post a picture on social media of your kids, or that trip you took and loved, or you express a thought, and thwack, it’s open season.
The other day I saw a post on someone’s social media site crop up in my feed. This person is someone I really respect and look up to. The picture was unflattering, and the words that captioned it broke my heart. It was meant to be funny, but it wasn’t.
It was a solid thwack.
Someone, somewhere felt the impact. Not only that, that one thwack had the potential to leave a red mark on many who weren’t even sitting close.
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Maybe we think that if someone is famous, they don’t feel it. Maybe we think if a believer or Bible teacher is in the public realm, they should take a good thwacking to keep them humble. Perhaps we believe if our words are on social media, that only people who understand our sense of humor or our opinions will see it.
None of this is true.
I imagine, so many years ago, that the mama’s goal was to keep her kids quiet in church. It worked short-term. But I wonder what long-term lessons were imprinted on the heart of the children, such as:
You never know when you’re going to get it.
Church is an awful place to hang out.
Even if you’re doing pretty well, it’s not good enough.
What are we trying to gain?
If thwacking feels normal, let’s clarify this. It may seem normal culturally, but it’s not reflective of our Savior or our faith. Hurting people rarely draws them to Jesus, or to our side of the table. It’s not going to sway someone to believe, or change their heart. Instead, we are teaching people lessons about our faith, lessons that don’t reflect the words found in scripture:
A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it. (Matthew 5:11)
In everything, show yourself to be an example by doing good works. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and wholesome speech that is above reproach, so that anyone who opposes us will be ashamed to have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:8)
Act wisely toward outsiders, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be gracious,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
There’s little to gain in verbally thwacking people. There’s so much more to lose. Even as I write this, I want you to know that the first person I pray hears these words is me.
Lord, if I am verbally thwacking people to get my way, or because everyone else is doing it, convict my heart. May my life reflect you, long before it mimics anything else that holds little value.
So, what do we do?
We go counter-culture.
- Our words, life, and actions are never to be bent by culture, but bound by faith.
- We choose grace over gratifying an emotion or impulse.
- If we feel led to speak or take a stand, we first bathe it in prayer. We ask for wisdom. We lead with love.
- We refuse to believe that being fierce equates to being ferocious, and instead define fierce as faith-filled.
Let’s remember this, friends. We don’t serve a God who thwacked humanity, but who sent his Son to stand in our place. Who loved greatly. Who served, before asking to be served. Who prayed just as much as he poured out. We don’t have to embrace culture as our example, but we are invited to follow the One who promises to show us how to live.
Imagine that thwacking is used in everyday life to make you conform.
You hand in a report at work, and there’s a small mistake — thwack.
You fold the sheet wrong (I always do). Thwack.
You do a good thing, but it’s not perfect. Thwack.
Q: How would this motivate you short-term? What is the long-term impact? Which is more powerful in helping you grow or change?
Q: In what ways do we allow culture to tell us what is appropriate? Now, make that personal. In what ways has this influenced you?
Q: Which of the above scriptures spoke to you, and why?
If you want to take this topic deeper, you might love these!
I really needed to hear this topic on thwack. I have a son who lives worldly and not Godly. It is the people he has chosen to hang out with I love Him with all my heart. I gave him to God Because, I think I thwack him with my words because he has broken my heart so many times. I told him God would deal with him now and I reminded him of the prodigal son, and to never forget I will always be around for him when he is tired of worldly ways. I t hurts to let him learn life’s lessons. God is with him and I know the outcome will,be good Because it is And will be God’s way. thanks for writing this was a great read for me.
Miranda, sometimes no words are the best option when we are hurt or frustrated. Those same words are safe in the presence of our Savior, who loves our children even more than we do. My prayer for you today is to sense God’s sweet presence, and joy. And for your Son to feel the love of a Savior who reaches for the 1 over the 99, who implores us to go in the highways and byways, because he sees who is lost. Praying for the right words for your son, and for you, and for him to find his way home again.
oh my Suzie….you always manage to hit my heart right where it is needed. My “word” for 2018 is WORDS…and it seems every which way I turn I am reminded how powerful our/my words are. I appreciate your insights & “words” Bless you.
Words are so important. I was reminded of that the other day with two different examples. One was an airline employee. I asked a question and his response was unexpected and harsh. I asked a second question (because I didn’t know the answer, and I hoped he did), and he said, “Why are you asking me so many questions?” I don’t know if he was having a bad day or if this was his personality, but it left a mark.
The other night I went to a Good Friday service at a new church with friends. A woman greeted us at the door. I smiled and said hello, and she reached and pulled me in tight. “I’m really glad you are here,” she said. She didn’t know me, but her words were so genuine and kind that it also left a mark. A sweet one.
Our words matter.
They really do.
Powerful and God’s inspired reflections. Thank you so much Suzie. God bless you!
The thwack I grew up with was a metal coat hanger, or a thin branch. I hold the record for never ever doing anything right, but that’s because I was stupid & nobody loved me. But through the healing grace & love of our savior..I faced my abuser & apologized ..then forgave her. Fully.
Rhonda, I am so sorry you lived through such abuse. Praise God that you were able to move past this abuse, forgive your abuser, and have healing and peace in your heart. I hope and pray you now know that you were fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. You are smart and capable of doing all that God has called you to do according to His will for you. Thank you for sharing your experience and have a blessed day.
I’m so sorry about that. I’m so grateful for the healing you’ve experienced, and for the forgiveness that set you free. <3
Thank you Suzie! This just came at the perfect time. I joined a mentoring group, recommended by someone I do ministry with. After I was in the group I noticed the high volume of curse words being used. When I mentioned this I was immediately notified by the leaders how those words are motivation tools. Well, I believe we can be motivated without the use of profanity. I am more affected by God’s Word.
Suzie, I appreciate your speaking up on this. It bothers me too. May the Lord guard my own words, written or spoken. I’m always amazed at how gracious our Father is with us.
Thank you for that gentle reminder♥️
I love your practical advice to choose grace over gratifying an emotion or impulse. That’s something I’ll be thinking on all dsy Gratifying our emotions is so second nature we often don’t even think before responding…and our emotions are used to justify so many sinful responses. This was so good. Thank you for sharing!
I grew up with an earthly father that thwacked us daily with his words. We lived with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We never knew when those cutting words would come pouring out. It has caused me to have little self esteem and no confidence. Sadly, until I earnestly saught God to change I became my dad and used words negatively. BUT GOD!! When I see it now, in others, it stings so because I know what it did to me. I most relate to Colosions 4:6 I would rather be quiet and pray about how to answer rather than speak and regret it. One book that helped me greatly in this area is Karen Ehman’s book Keep It Shut. I want my words to be honey and not vinegar to those that hear them.
Thanks for sharing Nancy. I grew up with a Thwacker too and even at the age I am now, I still get thwacked. It’s hard when you feel like you are never good enough for your own mother. God has given me a heart of compassion and I believe it is unhealed hurt that comes out at others. She was expected to be perfect as a child….. Setting and enforcing boundaries has been a huge blessing for me and enabled me to break free. I look at how Jesus set boundaries. Those that want to thwack don’t often like you writing your own life script and because of that we don’t have a very close relationship. Yet I know it is not the earthly relationships that can ever truly fill me — only God. Growing up on a tightrope, I learned to keep myself on one too and so learning to extend myself grace is a daily surrender. I’m good at encouraging and giving those around me grace because I know the pain of unrealistic expectations yet I still unconsciously have them for myself. I’m a work in progress and I’m grateful for a God who is with me every step of the way. Blessings to you
You’re so right!
I was raised on KJV until I was 16 years old, and I don’t remember learning about abuse back then. Then one day I looked up the word “revile”, and Bingo! The light came on. When Jesus was reviled (abused), He reviled not again (He did not respond with abuse.)
Suzie, thank you for your kind and gentle way of writing. I’m a reforming thwacker that is desperately wanting to change. I’m no where near where I started and thank God He’s helping me change. My prayer raising my son has been God don’t let me mess Him up. Through His enabling power, my mouth will become a filter for my thoughts rather than a thwacker of them. I love this word. 😊This spoke volumes to my heart today!
This was eye opening! I kept thinking I had to hide past thwacks from God, because I thought He’d thwack me if He knew about it. I tried to put a show on as if things were okay and that I’m fine . . when inside I really wasn’t.
I’m starting to see more clearly that God is quite opposite of thwacking.
Raised in the south it is a topic I am familiar with. I have seen overbearing parents and some afraid to disciple at all. I think a lack of love and discipline have led to a lot of over medication, I have also seen women home school and pray and still have troubled children. Jesus will rule with a rod of iron, His Word. Yet, He compared Himself to the Good Shepherd, while He’s not beating you with the staff, He lifts you with it, guides you with it. I heard a terrible sermon that He would cripple the lamb to save it, more or less. He took the punishment, the beating, the whipping. Still, if you spank, let it be a little prod in the right direction, and never do it angry. You can sow love in and children will take advantage, so boundaries are important. Let the Holy Spirit help you. The Father loves us and He is firm but not abusive, learning fear instead of respect is terrible, it hinders our walk with Him.
Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it! I was just listening to a verse the other day about how our speech should edify and build up others, and I was struck by how often I speak carelessly. If I am not cognizant and leaning on God for every word, it’s easy to spew words out of envy or jealousy … or especially self-righteousness. I really appreciate the reminder to be full of grace in how we relate to each other!
You have a beautiful way of talking about difficult subjects. Thank you! You have me thinking about my words.