sticks and stones

There is an old nursery rhyme that goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me[1] which feels extraordinarily appropriate given recent events and personal observation. Originally intended to persuade children to ignore name-calling and other hurtful taunts, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured, its persuasive effectiveness is certainly suspect to say the least. Likewise, it would seem, is the efficacy of the command enjoined by Christ to “love your neighbor as yourself.”[2]

love hate 2 If there is one virtue conspicuously absent in this world today it is love while sadly what appears to be in promiscuous overabundance is quite the opposite. Reasoned discourse, good manners, consideration for the views of others, moderation, a willingness to compromise, respect, a genuine fondness or love for neighbors are virtues no longer held in high regard, especially in the public square.

There is little if any consideration to dialogue for dialogue requires an honest attempt to reach common ground, to depolarize the intransigent, and to accept the unacceptable. It would require recognizing that every issue ought not to be a question of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

What is perhaps most distressing is the deliberate and malicious high-jacking of the lexicon by those who wish to confuse, obfuscate, and distort in order to hide their true purpose. Mathematicians enjoy the exacting detail upon which all mathematics depends. Two plus two must equal four under any and all conditions and circumstances. It can never equal any other value, no matter how much one might wish or desire it to be so. Linguistics, like mathematics, has defined rules and definitions, but unlike mathematics, its most important rule would seem to be that all rules are meant to be broken.

Take the word “discrimination” which is defined as an act or instance of making a distinction, the ability to see fine distinctions and differences, subtle appreciation in matters of taste, or discriminating judgment. The original meaning which was first defined in the 1640s was “the making of distinctions” and from 1814 it meant “discernment.” Now here is the rub. Based on these definitions no one, absolutely no one, is immune for we all discriminate in some form or fashion, from choosing what color to paint a room to which car to buy or what wine to drink. We all make distinctions and choices based on our own personal preferences and tastes. Quite simply, we discriminate every day and all the time. Somewhere along the way “discrimination” has been high-jacked, conflating bigotry with discernment and obfuscating its true meaning. Discrimination has now become a derogatory, sufficiently opaque to blur and confuse even those most learned among us.

And there are so many other high-jacked words, words such as “fundamental”, “religion”, “faith”, “rights”, “values”, “love”, “life”, “freedom”, “choice”, “entitled” and “justice”.  Our language has been skewered and betrayed, altered to give argument to those whose sole purpose is complete acquiescence and subjugation to their myopic point of view. It is an ethic based on and supported by hate, never by or for the love of God.


[1] Mrs. George Cupples, Tappy’s Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, 1872.
[2] Mk 12:31, Mt 22:39.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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