Every morning I get breakfast ready, stroll to the nearest television, and turn on the morning news. I try to catch the 7 AM news because it gives a run down of the top national news. Watching the news each morning has become a necessary part of my day. As a history teacher, I like to know what is going on in the world so I can inform and teach my students better. The news helps my students understand the world a little better. It helps them be more discerning when they watch the news for themselves, and it helps them understand the past as it relates to the present.
However recently I want to face palm every time I watch the news. People who are shaping the world are making fools of themselves. They are speaking publicly about things outside of their platform. The news now ranges from absurd to tragic to straight-up silly. Now there are really sad and really important things happen in our country, but I am referring to the people – specifically those in government.
On Sunday morning I turned on the news and heard this “great” little story about another tweet from President Trump. Now Mr. Trump is my president. I am an American citizen and I live in a republic (not a democracy, thank you very much). As my government has been designed, people vote and earn points for their state. Those points determine how an electoral college chooses to vote for my leadership. They voted for Mr. Trump. He is my president, and for the foreseeable future, I will respect him because I respect his position. I am also going to teach my students to respect him for the exact same reasons… no matter how hard it is to do.
Now back to this Sunday morning tweet… You have probably seen or heard it already. Mr. Trump said, “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat? Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”
Mr. Trump, please. As the leader of the free world, holding the highest and historically most respected office in the world, please watch what you say. I have to go into my classroom and explain to young, impressionably students why the president says things like this, but absolutely under no circumstances should my students ever say something like that, and certainly they should never use friendship as their excuse.
While it is undignified moment for my president, there is a lesson to be learned for my students. What is this lesson?
Remember the old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” At some point in our life, probably third grade, everyone learns that saying is not even close to true. Names do hurt. Words can damage. At some point before this tweet, Mr. Trump must have received news that Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, must have called him “old.” Ignoring the fact that Mr. Trump is seventy-one years old, and legitimately old by many people’s standards, in a high school classroom it is never kind to call somebody names even if you perceive it to be true. It is unkind and will hurt someone’s feelings.
On the opposite end, it is never right to retaliate when someone does say or do something unkind. You have no right to get even. No matter how justified you may feel, it will never make you feel or look better. Not only will you feel worse about the situation, the people around you will not have a better opinion of you because you had the last word. Getting even will hurt your reputation and mark you as someone who is unkind.
The Bible has a lot to say about our words and how we should and should not use them. Basically read through Proverbs and you will find that kind and honest words are the marks of a wise man, whom God honors, and unkind, mean, thoughtless words are the mark of a foolish man. We know what we are and aren’t supposed to say, yet it can be hard to control those impulses when someone wrongs us. Exhibit A: President Trump. So how are we to hold our tongue? I will be the first to admit that it is challenging. No one likes a bully and it sure seems easier to lash out when we have been wronged. But I am not the best example to follow because I have messed up in this area. I have used my words to hurt people.
But we have a great example to follow in Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life – like no mistakes perfect. He never did anything that would even warrant people mocking Him, because He never did anything slightly wrong. And yet, somehow people despised him. Thought He was crazy, maybe even mean-spirited and judgmental. People used their words to put Christ down and ultimately put Him on a cross and tortured Him to death. Yet through all of this horror, Christ never said anything unkind to his accusers. He never put anyone down or mocked them for their very real flaws.
So, if Christ kept His mouth shut, I should too.
1 Peter 2:20 says “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” Let me rephrase – it is your responsibility, your duty, a basic expectation that you are kind to others, even when they are unkind to you. It does not matter whether you are “old” or not, when someone calls you old, keep your mouth shut.
The news is an excellent source of fodder for practical application in the classroom. Mr. Trump’s reactive tweet is an excellent example of what NOT to do with your words. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your students to respect their leadership if they appear flawed and teach your students to keep silence. It is a lesson for all of us.