The first utterance of the now famous phrase, “flatten the curve,” was in about 1962. I uttered it to my barber. You see, I had a curve of hair that, if Brain Wilson of the Beach Boys had seen, it would have inspired a surfing song.
And let me be clear, I hated that curve of hair. I was embarrassed by it and wanted it gone. Back in the day, we had a hair product called Dippity–do (gel), and I used enough of it on my hair to hold down a tidal wave.
It’s funny how time changes one’s perspective. Looking back at old pictures makes me think I wasted lots of money on Dippity–do. The curve of hair actually was cute, but you couldn’t convince me of that in 1962. All I needed was for someone of significance in my life, besides my parents, to say, “Hey your hair is cute.” If a girl had said that, it would have been a life changer. I could have had a social life. But because no one said it, I hid in my room for a decade.
What we say to others can be life changing, as can what we don’t say. Are you the kind of person who looks back at conversations and says, “Oops, I shouldn’t have said that!” or are you the kind who says, “I wish I had said something!” I’m the latter type. In reflection, there are lots of words I wish I had said—hopeful, kind, bold, courageous words. And there are some words I would like to take back.
Most of the preachers who get press time and who are “stars” of the media, who claim to speak for faith issues, don’t speak for me. Many of them speak with harsh, judgmental words. I have heard several interviews in recent years by so called Christian people. When they open their mouths, what comes out does not sound like anything that I think would have been said by Jesus.
There are some great people in my church, and I will bet in yours too, who speak with kindness and compassion. When they open their mouths, they sound like genuine, honest people rather than people masquerading as Christians.
As a church minister, I am constantly called on to “say a few words.” My role as a “speaker-of-words,” whether in sermons, funerals, weddings, or columns in a newspaper is the role to which most people attach my name. It is very important that I give great care to the words I speak. I want “the words of my mouth (and the meditations of my heart) to be acceptable in thy sight” (Psalm 19:14). Most of us know through first-hand experience the damage from an ill-spoken word or the healing from a well-spoken and kind word.
I want to say encouraging words to others, not because I am a minister and people expect it, but because I can. I can speak the gospel kindly; I can speak it “softly and tenderly.” I can affirm others with words that can be life-changing. The social media hateful words, well, I’m done with them and those who use them. I’m not going to bully, berate, or intimidate with words.
So, I’m going to find some random ten-year-old boy and tell him I like his curly hair. “Don’t ever flatten that curve,” I will say. Saying it might get him out of his room this decade.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
Dr. Steve Davis