Yesterday, a friend forwarded me a link about the rise of acid attacks in Colombia. I was appalled. I had heard of acid attacks in places like India and Afghanistan, but South America?
It got me thinking once again about the horror of these sorts of attacks, the hatefulness. While acid is sometimes used against men, it is primarily a hate crime committed against women, a way to cause searing pain, to decimate confidence, to make her seem like less, in her own eyes and the eyes of others. Like most forms of violence against women, it is not primarily a crime against a woman’s body; it is a crime against her very identity, the physical damage mirroring the psychological and spiritual carnage the attacker was trying to inflict. The attacker wanted to feel a sense of power over her, to make her feel shame, to steal her ability to hold her head high in front of others.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;” Jesus told the Pharisees in John 10:10. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
It occurred to me that we don’t need a bottle of acid to inflict that sort of carnage on a person’s soul. Our words, silences and actions can burn and sear, melting away the soft flesh protecting a person’s innermost being, disfiguring their sense of self.
Oftentimes, we feel justified in doing it, indignant that they stepped outside the boundaries set by family, church, or culture. Sometimes those are good boundaries, set to keep people safe and help everyone thrive. Other times they are bad or arbitrary boundaries, set to reinforce human hierarchies, whether it’s the queen bee at the middle school, the abusive assistant manager, the “powers that be” at the church, or the overriding family culture.
But when we use acidic comments or freezing behavior as a weapon, wielding whatever influence we have to make a person feel shame, we diminish and disfigure their personhood, in their own eyes and the eyes of others.
There is a way to speak the truth in love. And there is a way to heap condemnation on a person’s head, tying heavy burdens on their back that they may not be capable of carrying.
Have you considered that? That they may not be capable of carrying the load you think they should carry, that it might be a bruising impossibily that would break them? How many people have dropped their over-burdened packs in discouragement, abandoning Christ with their family or church’s unattainable expectations?
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus contined in his sermon to the Pharisees, the religious “shepherds” of the day. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it… I lay down my life for the sheep…I lay it down of my own accord.”
Here’s my question for you. Do you have a bottle of acid stashed in your soul? Do you use it to control people, for “good” purposes or bad, to keep them within the boundaries you think they should live within?
Have a little faith, and surrender it to the Good Shepherd.