Silencing ‘locker room talk’

As God’s children, each of us is inherently capable of knowing what is right and acting accordingly, with compassion, dignity, and grace.

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Years ago, I swam every day early in the morning. The gym was always very busy. One day, while getting dressed after my swim, I heard another man talking about women with degrading and obscene sexual language.

At that moment, one of his friends came over to me, introduced himself, and asked what I did for a living. I replied, “I am a Christian Science practitioner and devote my life to helping others through prayer.” He mentioned that his grandmother had been a Christian Scientist, adding that he had respect for what I did. At that point, the whole locker room became quiet. And as I was getting ready to leave, the first man came over to me, apologized for what he had said about women, and told me he wouldn’t speak that way again.

Something about my stand for Christianity and prayer must have touched him. I saw him in the locker room many times after that, and I never heard him use profane or derogatory language again. This has meant more to me in recent years, as the use of “locker room talk” – sexually based jokes and stories that often degrade women – has come under increased scrutiny. It is no longer tolerated as just a typical part of men’s conversations.

Contrast that with another experience, also years ago, that I have never forgotten. My wife and I were at a Chicago Bible Society dinner. One of the honorees was a prominent elected official. Upon receiving his award, he stood on the platform, and the first words he uttered were, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14). It was a humble declaration by an extremely accomplished man, giving the reason why his advocating for freedom and dignity for all people was so effective.

Those words from Psalms are a great guide to live by, and our doing so can also make a difference for others, as the life of Christ Jesus showed. No one has ever lived those words better than he did, and his whole life brought healing and resolution to all sorts of situations.

Jesus also had potent words about watching our language. In answer to an accusation that his disciples were not observing the religious law of the time, he replied: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matthew 15:11). To defile means to spoil something – to pollute it.

Jesus always knew what to say to quiet his questioners, to tone down the rhetoric, and to bring morality and decency to the melodrama of the day. When confronted by a group determined to bring him into a discussion about whether or not to kill an adulterous woman, he simply said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” With those words, the woman’s accusers dispersed. He turned to the accused and said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:7, 11).

What is it that can silence a man in a locker room, give a politician the courage and integrity to base his life on pleasing God, and allow Jesus to bring healing to an ugly situation? It is the Christ – the healing activity of God, Truth, speaking to humanity. Jesus may no longer be present in human form, but the Christ he embodied speaks to the conscience of everyone, clearing away the pollution of obscenity, pornographic images, prejudice, racism, and all forms of hatred.

Christ does this by revealing that our true selfhood is spiritual, created by divine Love, Spirit, God. Our identity is composed of an infinite array of spiritual qualities, including goodness, purity, intelligence, strength, and love. The ability to know what is right and to act with compassion, dignity, and grace is inherent in all of us as children of God.

That was what Jesus ultimately saw in his encounter with the woman and her accusers. He understood so clearly that her true identity was spiritual and pure that it shamed and silenced her accusers and provided her the opportunity to have a radically different life.

We are not mortal, “testosteroned” or “estrogened” blobs of protoplasm that revel in decadence and conflict. We are the spiritual reflection of God, with a divine inheritance and makeup. That which contradicts our true selfhood – the speech or activity that would degrade or victimize – is cleaned out by the understanding of this God-created, God-ordained, and God-maintained true identity of each of us. It is this understanding, lived and demonstrated, that brings respect, opportunity, peace, purpose, and joy into our lives.

Adapted from an article published in the March 16, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Some more great ideas! To read or listen to an article on how God’s loving protection establishes safety and morality, please click through to a recent article on titled “‘Lo, I am with you alway.’” There is no paywall for this content.

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