I’m back to teaching full-time at the Christian School where my kids attended, and where I have been privileged to substitute teach for many years. I’m taking on the role of teaching Junior High Language Arts and several option courses. To say it has been a big transition would be a huge understatement, especially learning new technology…but I’ll save that for another posting 🙂
After I published my first book, I was invited to the school to share my testimony in chapel and particularly to share about the anti-bullying message that has become my platform, and the theme that runs through all three of my “Wounded Trilogy” books.
That morning I used a “duct tape illustration” to explain what is meant by my book title, Shoot the Wounded. I had a boy volunteer come up and then I had two girls have the pleasure (at least that’s what it looked to me), in duct taping the young man’s hands and feet together so he could not move. In the middle of their enthusiastic “wrapping”, the boy couldn’t stand on his feet any longer which of course made him even more vulnerable. Then I had two of his buddies come and tickle him while he was on the ground and couldn’t move. After a brief struggle, I asked his friends to help him to his feet and help him remove the duct tape from his body.
The following is what I told the students that morning:
“As many of you are well aware, I have written a book called, Shoot the Wounded. It is a contemporary Christian novel written about youth for youth. It addresses how lies and gossip destroy a person’s spirit, and it speaks to the heart of relevant themes such as bullying, teen pregnancy and family violence all the while pointing the characters and ultimately the reader to hope in Jesus Christ.
Let’s go back to the duct tape illustration. Many people have asked me where I came up with the title of my book and what is its significance. Actually “shoot the wounded” is a military expression. It was an order given to an army to kill off their enemy entirely (even if it meant “shooting the wounded”) to prevent enemy soldiers from fighting against them in future battles. Ever hear the expression, “Take no prisoners!”?. That means “shooting the wounded”. Interestingly enough, according to modern day rules of war, if there is such a thing, it is actually illegal to shoot the wounded on the battlefield. It is considered inhumanitarian!
I actually came up with the title of my book after I read an interview with a Christian recording artist who was going through a divorce. As she was being interviewed, she shared that going through the divorce was bad enough but because of all the media hype and gossiping about her situation, she felt like they were “shooting the wounded”. Another way to say it is to kick you when you’re down, rub salt in the wound, add insult to injury…etc.
In the duct tape illustration, the duct tape wrapped tightly around the boy’s arms and legs, represents the wounds that we may carry around with us in life. Wounds don’t necessarily show on the outside; you don’t have to be bleeding profusely or have broken bones to be wounded. In fact, some of the most painful wounds cannot be seen at all. They are hidden and sometimes we even try to cover them up so they can’t be seen. Some of the most wounded people in the world wear such convincing “feel good” masks, we have no idea they are hurting at all. Some of them may be members of your family, your church, your community or sitting right next to you at school.
They might be carrying around things like, guilt, shame, unconfessed sin. Sometimes we are wounded by others, and sometimes we bring wounds on ourselves. We can be wounded or victimized by abuse, family violence, rape, substance abuse and a host of other serious things that we should never ever have to deal with on our own. If you are victimized by any of those kinds of things, you need to talk to a trusted adult, teacher or counsellor.
But there are other ways you can be wounded or victimized that is more subtle but can be just as devastating to the person who is going through it. Things like loneliness, depression, a feeling of being abandoned by friends, having no friends, having friends talk behind your back, being bullied, having others tell lies about you, being gossiped about…
Let me read a definition for you: “Bullying is any hurtful or aggressive act toward an individual or group that is intentional and repeated”.
According to this definition, “bullying” is ANY hurtful OR aggressive act toward an individual or group that is intentional and repeated. Bullying does not necessarily have to be an aggressive act, it just has to be ANY hurtful act that is intentional and repeated.
In 1999, high school students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School killing 13 and wounding 21 people before killing themselves. In video taped messages and letters they wrote before the shooting, both boys had been bullied themselves. The boys were not only physically bullied by being pushed around or knocked down, they were made fun of. They were laughed at and laughed about. Classmates avoided them and refused to befriend them. Classmates ridiculed them and gossiped about them. Eric and Dylan may have had some very serious emotional problems to begin with, but finally it was the bullying that pushed them both over the edge.
More recently, some schools went into lock-down mode after someone created a group on Facebook that encouraged everyone to beat up on red-headed kids for a day. It was meant to be a joke, but some took it way too far and a few kids actually ended up in hospital after being beaten by fellow students. Agressive bullying, cyber bullying,…they are serious enough but there is another insidious form of bullying…Gossip.
In my book, Shoot the Wounded the three main characters in the book are going through some very serious life situations, while at the same time trying to deal with all the gossip and lies that is circulating about them.
Humans of any age like to feel they are well thought of and when other people tell untruths about them or gossip and say terrible things about them, eventually it will destroy their spirit. In school, students may have an increasingly difficult time over-hearing the gossip and then having to face their peers every day. This may cause some students to become depressed and withdrawn. A few may become so lonely and withdrawn that they feel no one cares for them, or they might feel that they will never fit in and they may start to have thoughts of suicide.
I have heard of stories of students who have taken their own lives because they could no longer live with what their friends were saying about them in school. They just couldn’t handle the gossip anymore.
Ephesians 4:29 says: “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”.
Now some of you may be saying, “Whoa, Mrs. Dove…chill! You make it sound like gossiping is the worst thing in the world. It’s really no big deal!” ….Well, to those of you that say that gossiping is no big deal, think again.
If you’ve ever played the game, “Telephone” you have a clear indication of what happens when you gossip. A simple phrase told to the first person is repeated over and over around the circle and by the time it gets back to the original person, the phrase is completely distorted and almost unrecognizable. That is exactly the same way with gossip. It starts with an element of truth, but it distorts with each new telling until it has become almost recognizable from the original statement in meaning and intent.
Have you also noticed that gossip tends to follow a situation immediately after something bad has happened to someone? When you gossip, you really are kicking someone when they are down; you really are “shooting the wounded”. Gossip can destroy reputations, it can destroy families and affect a person for years to come. Sometimes the lies and gossip told are even worse to deal with than the situation the person is dealing with in the first place.
One particular story I came across centered around a family who had moved from Mexico to West Michigan. In April 2009 their seven year old daughter became violently ill. The parents frantically called 911 and watched as medics rushed into their home and carried their daughter’s limp body from their home to an ambulance waiting outside. When they arrived at the hospital, the parents, were told that their daughter had died. Three weeks after the sudden and mysterious death of their little girl, the parents found themselves the target of endless community speculation about what caused their daughter’s death. Although her death was initially ruled as caused by pneumonia and not tied to any infectious diseases, the rumours intensified. Neighbours became more cruel and even physically confrontational as news that a new deadly strain of influenza, the swine flu virus (H1N1), believed to have originated in Mexico had spread to the U.S. According to autopsy results, their daughter had died from an inflamed heart, but when rumours began to circulate that she may have had H1N1, health officials reexamined the girl’s initial autopsy tests and verified that there was no evidence of the girl contracting any infectious disease. Even with medical assurances that it wasn’t H1N1 that caused the little girl’s death the gossiping continued. The parents were accused in their church, at the grocery store, the laundromat and at work. Strangers even visited the grieving parents in their home and accused them of bringing the swine flu virus to West Michigan. The mother reacted by telling a local reporter: “I just want people to stop spreading all these rumors and let my daughter rest in peace.” This clearly indicates what it means to “shoot the wounded”.
I could relate story after story about how lies and gossip have destroyed the lives of people. So then why do we gossip? If we know that gossip wounds and destroys, why do we gossip?
An easy Bible-based answer is that we live in a “fallen” world and people tend to do things that go against God’s natural plan for them. The sad thing is that even if we love God and want to live for Him, we still do things that go against Him. Why? Well, when it comes to gossip, this is what I think:
Gossip is an addiction. It is not something that is consumed, ingested, or injected, but it is actively pursued and sought after much like a drug might be. For those who have a gossip “addiction” they can’t seem to get enough of it…the juicier the gossip, the better! It may make them feel good about themselves for a short while, as they tear down another person either for spite or for amusement, but just like a drug that gives a false sense of security, a high if you will, it eventually poisons the body and damages the spirit.
Here’s another example: In World War 1, chlorine gas was used on enemy forces. It was a lethal substance which killed men, not instantly, but slowly and agonizingly as their lungs were seared and burned and they eventually choked to death. In other words, chlorine gas killed only after it had induced terrible suffering and panic. There always remained one huge problem with the deployment of chlorine gas: unforeseen changes in wind direction. A change in wind direction brought the gas back upon those who had only recently released it. At this point the gas did not merely take down the enemy, but it took down everyone. Gossip is exactly like that.
When you gossip you not only hurt the person you’re gossiping about, you hurt yourself.
Proverbs 6:16,19 says: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him…vs. 19…a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Consider how strong the scriptural truth conveyed here is: the words, “hate” and “abomination” are not warm-fuzzy words! Look at the passage again, it does not say that God hates the lies the false witness tells or the results of the one who brings discord; God hates the false witness…the person who causes dissension is an abomination to God.
Some of you might be saying but wait, God is love! God doesn’t hate people! Scripture tells us that anger, wrath and hate are expressions of His love! Because God loves us so strongly, He is passionately opposed to whatever threatens what and who He loves. Because God is Truth, He hates anything and/or anyone who opposes Him (because He IS Truth). Because God is a God of peace, He hates anything and/or anyone who disrupts His peace. (1 John 4:8; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Rom. 2:6-8)
When you speak things about others that you would be ashamed to say in their presence, you are not only disobeying God’s Word (Lev. 19:16), you are distroying that person’s reputation in the mind of your listener. Gossip is sharing private information with those who are not part of the problem or part of the solution!
Even to participate in the act of gossip as a listener is a sin. “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” (Prov. 20:19). By wilfully listening to the one who gossips, you sanction the destruction of the other person’s reputation.
So what should you do if you have become addicted to gossip? First, know that gossip has its roots in jealousy, hate and self- pride. Gossip is cowardly. Gossip is a form of bullying.
When you find yourself gossiping or wanting to gossip, STOP. Gossip only happens if there is an audience. Walk away from people who are gossiping. Don’t involve yourself in the gossip. In order to overcome gossiping yourself, seek the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As you acquire these virtues, you will not want to challenge or envy others, but instead you will find yourself able to think of others as worthy of your love and respect.
Back to our duct tape illustration: Did you notice that we did not leave the boy bound up and unable to move because of the duct tape illustrating the “wounds” he may have in his life? No…we did not leave him vulnerable, hurting, or embarrassed. His friends helped him to his feet and helped him remove all the duct tape around his body. That’s what we should be doing for someone who is hurting; someone who is wounded. It’s up to us to encourage one another, not tear each other down. Look for opportunities to help and be a friend to someone who is hurting. Be careful that you don’t say something as a joke or in teasing that is hurtful. Teasing and joking may have their place, but watch out that you don’t cross a line that causes another person to feel like you are shooting the wounded.”