Monday, January 27, 2014

The power of The Word

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes an old saying which many of us have heard from our early years.  It had been used often to remind us not to be easily offended by words uttered by our adversaries in life, and to not be bothered by any kind of unkindness or name-calling by those who seek to taunt us.  In short, it was a simple statement which really taught us among other things, that we have the ability, power and freedom to allow (or not allow) the words of others to control us.

But strong is the person who really has that kind of control.  Isn’t it true that for so many of us, we have handed this power over to our adversaries and “those who hate us”?  We allow the mere power of either the spoken or written word to affect us (usually negatively) and we hold that person with such contempt for either having written or said something scathing about us and our character.  The result?  It can range from harbouring a long term grudge against that person, or a law-suit, depending on how deep our pockets are and how badly we want so-called “justice” done.  It also depends often on how much “offended” we are. 

In Singapore, within the span of about one week, a certain expatriate banker by the name of Aston Casey has become public enemy number one merely by posting a few lines on his now removed Facebook account a couple of very derogatory and insulting remarks about us Singaporeans and our public transport system.  These words of his became “viral” in more ways than one.  This virus spread so quickly and suddenly all of Singapore and even other parts of the world became aware of this person’s open disdain for the poor and “smelly” public transport user that vitriolic spewed from many Singaporeans’ keyboards so much so that the “offender” took on the defensive and has since fled the island republic to seek refuge in Perth, Australia with his Singaporean wife and young son.

There have since been several calls by various people to forgive the stupidity of Mr. Casey, and truly, at the bottom of this act is really his stupidity that caused him such a sudden fall from a lofty height.  Many would quote the unenlightened saying, “it is easy to forgive but we cannot forget”.  I call this unenlightened because there is hardly any reason to forgive a transgression if one is in fact lacking in memory or demented in any way.  True forgiveness is on grand display when one truly remembers and chooses to forgive, despite the pain, hurt and the memory of having being offended. 

Mere civility may ask that we as Singaporeans ‘put aside’ this incident and ‘move on’ in life, as there are much more important things in life other than harping on someone’s stupid, callous and careless remarks made of us.  But not everyone is a civil person.  There are many people who are bent on having their own sense of justice and as an old Cantonese saying goes, to want to “bite till the dead come to life again”, meaning that one just cannot ‘let go’. 

The Christian who lives in a new identity in Christ has a real weapon against being reactive.  This is our shared power in Christ who allows us to truly allow us to not have a hard heart even when we may be faced with an injustice unfold right in front of us.   When Christ was hanging on the Cross, that he was not vindictive, that he did not want to mete out revenge on his adversaries. That he looked up to the Father and not look down on his murderers is what we have as our new power to overcome the transgressions and oversights (and stupidity) of others.  When we only rely on our mere civil inclinations or civil mindedness, we will come to a limit where we let our emotions and egos take over.  On a good day, we may do that well on our own accord, but if we rely on our own goodness, we will fall short most of the time.  But when we do live “in Christ”, when we allow our baptismal dignities to come to the fore, where we will realise that we are not just ourselves.  This is when St Paul's words "I live now, not I, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20)" becomes our own.  We see things in the light of Christ, and we have a new vista from which we view the world – and it will be from the Cross of Calvary. 

When we live with a new largess, we can effectively become conduits of God's grace and bearers of God's Kingdom here on earth.  We become spreaders of the fragrance of Christ in a world that is "smelly" not from a world of poverty and bad hygiene, but one that is reeking with a bad odour of sin and evil.  The fragrance of the Holy Chrism that was used at our anointing at our baptism becomes a new perfume to bring healing, joy and delight to the world once again.

This blog entry is not just about forgiving Mr. Casey in a Christ-like way.  It is about seeing the transgressions of all the different Mr. Caseys in our lives in a new way – it could be your spouse, your neighbour, your fellow office worker, your children, or your employer.  It could even be your priest or your religious superior.  Finding your own energy to forgive a transgression or a stupid action is a tough act, but joining our anger, our hurt and our sense of ‘injustice’ to Christ hanging on the Cross becomes an easier act to follow because we do not do it alone.  Christ becomes for us the great conduit to truly allow for a letting go. 

Indeed, it will then be truly possible that ‘words will never hurt me’ because it is The Word Incarnate who is the one who gives me life.  Mere words will not have any power, because it is The Word of Life who is the real power giver. 


  1. Hello Fr Luke,

    I always like to read your blog as you bring everyday situations gleaned from the latest topics in the newspapers and make it into a spiritual reflection.

    I hope you are getting better each day, and since we'll be celebrating our CNY this week, I want to wish you a "Xin Nian Quai Le". May the new Lunar New Year bring you peace, love and joy and God bestowing his abundant blessings on you.

    Gong Xi Gong Xi

  2. I do not believe the man deserved his sacking (still unconfirmed) and his departure (unverified whether long term or short term).
    All he did was open his mouth and show off his unclassy manners.
    Singaporeans have shown their hands in that they are one bunch of blood thirsty hounds who are eager to crucify anyone "foreign". I am ashamed of such witch hunters in our midst.
    While we cannot condone his stupidity and insults, we need to also take the chance to exercise grace and forgiveness.
    Now, it is a lose-lose situation. I am afraid Singapore has scored her own goal this time.
    I am a Singaporean staying overseas and I bleed to see these things in my motherland. May God bless us all and steer us to a more gracious society.