Watch Your Mouth

My sixth-grade students and I have been looking at the story of Ra this week. It is an Egyptian creation legend. From a vast sea emerges an egg; from the egg emerges Ra, who announces his being and therefore is. He names the gods of heaven and earth and then creates people. Seeing their helplessness, he steps down from the heavens, takes human form, and lives among them as their pharaoh.

One of the questions accompanying this lesson designed by my colleague asked the kids to compare this story to a similar myth or legend. Faced with this question, they gave me blank stares. So I launched into the Bible as Literature for Middle School Kids in Three Minutes and, oops, did not leave God out of it. I told them that in the Judeo-Christian text, God appears from an immense darkness and, like Ra, begins naming things. The things he names become their names and the world takes shape and lives.

What?

If I call you a rose, you will feel elegant and beautiful, beloved. If I call you ragweed, you will feel ugly and unwanted, miserable.

Oh.

Such is the importance of language. Here begins life. Here begins your life.

Both the Egpytian and Judeo-Christian stories go on to talk about how God deals with ungrateful, treacherous humans. At the end of the day in both stories, mercy trumps righteous anger.

In the Egyptian story, Ra is ready to wipe everyone off the face of the earth until one of the lesser gods steps in and reminds him not everybody is a bad, uhm, egg. Righ, Ra says. So he sends his daughter, Shekhmet the Slayer, to sort good from evil. However, she takes a liking to killing off the bad guys. Ra's mercy is just, so he devises a plan to get her drunk and thus subdue her.

When she calms down, he names her Hathor the Comforter of People. From Slayer to Comforter. It's possible?

It's possible.

Mercy in the Bible takes the shape of a great Teacher whose lessons in kindness cost him his life that we might better appreciate the beauty and wonder of life itself, of each other, of all creation. The Gospel writer John calls him the Word. And so he is, as he was at the beginning.

We become our words. It's that wildly simple.

The lesson at school reminded me of the thousand and one times my mother told me to watch my mouth. God bless her wisdom.

Comments

  1. I tell my program participants. Change your thought; change your world. Our thoughts become our actions and our words. What we confess we bring to ourselves or at least that has been my experience. I'm wanting good to come my way; I'm just selfish that way but I want to for them too.

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  2. I meant thoughts not thought.

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  3. My goodness this sounds deep for sixth graders. I don't remember anyone every trying to teach me anything in depth until high school. Lucky students.

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  4. This is indeed deep for 6th graders in Singapore. :)

    I do tell my son and my students to watch their words.

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  5. We're often told our kids will live up to what we call them: it's so true. What a wonderful insight to share with your students, and what a difference they could make if they used it!

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  6. It's true, language is really fundamental in life, in our life.

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  7. If words had no influence over us, where oh where would the world of advertising be? Motivational speakers and life coaches would be out of work... teachers and preachers would hold no influence.. Rap stars, newsmen and screen writers would have no reason to exist ... Poets are not the only word merchants. Mothers and fathers would have less reason to carry guilt for the thoughtless things said to their children in moments that can't be recaptured. And children would be less motivated, comforted or wounded by their parents.

    The most untrue words I have ever read or heard spoken are these... "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". What a complete perversion of truth.

    This was a wonderful lesson... deep even for us who read it. But, I am ever so pleased that you threw these pearls of wisdom... these precious guildelines for living to your students. They will absord more than we think.

    What a gift you are to these students. Indeed to many of us.

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  8. "We become our words. It's that wildly simple."
    Thank you for THIS word, Sandy! Aloha

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  9. I am assuming you teach in a Public School since you said 'oops, did not leave God out of it'. Will there be repercussions? Is The Bible as Literature for Middle School Kids in Three Minutes actually a Middle School Curriculum? I'd be astonished if any non-Christian school allowed anything to be taught from the Bible.

    I was often confused by my own mother growing up. Depending on the circumstance she would say 'Choose your words carefully' as often as she said 'Words can never hurt you.'

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  10. Anonymous7:47 AM

    I think we all should learn to watch our mouths at times. Great post Sandy!

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  11. "Oh be careful little hands what you do. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little tongue what you say." So go the verses of a little song I learned as a child. And, each line ends with, ...'cause the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little...what you...." Great reminder Sandy. Thanks Pappy

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  12. Some good advice there, and a great read.

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  13. Quite a nice read... Youir posts make me reminisce grade school... very nice work:)

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  14. "We become our words. It's that wildly simple."
    Wow, that's profound. I almost always get something to think on when I read your posts. Thanks.

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  15. great lesson, surprised you could give it in public schools. i remember when i taught 1st grade back in the 1970s we could open with prayer. things have changed...

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  16. I agree, that is something else that you were able to even mention the word "God" in a public school. It's sad how our public schools have veered away from religion. After all, we still are "One Nation Under God." Great post Sandy. I'm sure your students learned a lot from your lesson.

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  17. My children are adults. I can tell you it make me cringe.

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  18. Powerful reminder that words are things that carry real effects. I was told that 'words' would never harm me like 'sticks and stones' but I spent years carrying internal verbal messages I'd heard and beating myself up from within until I learned to release those voices and choose my own words. Your students are fortunate to have a teacher who perceives such lessons and shares theme honestly in meaningful ways.
    Hugs and blessings,

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  19. I was looking at your skywatch post when I noticed this. Very good. There is power in words and words and names matter. When my 10 yr old son tells me the rhyme of sticks and stones etc, I tell him that words can hurt worse than sticks and stones so we have to be extra careful about what we say.
    Your students are very lucky to have such a wise teacher.

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  20. Becareful of what you say as it often comes back to you. Sometimes we forget the power of the spoken and written word, and how labeling people can have a horrible outcome...

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  21. Well done! What an amazing teacher you must be - D

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  22. Anonymous10:47 AM

    At the same time your teaching the kids about language-you're teaching them about life!

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  23. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Ra had some definite advantages over the God of Israel, of Abraham and of Mohammed.

    For one thing, when he went to basketball or football pep rallies, he probably got a BIG ego boost, with everyone yelling, "RA RA RA, SIS BOOM BAH, WRACK 'EM UP STACK 'EM UP, RA RA RA!!"

    Same guy, right?

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  24. Wow, this was absolutely lovely...just as if you took a brush and painted a picture with water colors! gmarie-

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