When I set the penny I’d found earlier in the day on my calendar I noticed that March 9th was Barbie’s birthday.  I had no idea! You’d think a California girl who lived in the shadow of Mattel’s headquarters would know this.  I should keep better track especially since I’ve been referred to as a Barbie more than once.

Whether you grew up in Barb’s backyard or not almost every woman my age will confess to owning one of these world famous dolls.  Like boys and action figures girls and dolls are intertwined.  A devout collector can’t get enough.  When I got the Barbie townhouse for my birthday I thought I’d died and gone to pink heaven.

Despite my affection for all things Barbie I’ve never appreciated being called one.  I could take it as a compliment since she’s such a success, but I know it’s a put down.  “Don’t be such a Barbie-doll,” isn’t a compliment in disguise no matter how you try to dress it.

When I was referred to as the “Barbie Pastor” by an employee I had to fire it was unfair.  If the Senior Pastor had done the dirty work instead of delegating it to me, he would have been lauded as tough.  Despite years of women proving their merits in the workplace, when a lady fires a man there’s going to be name calling.

Two of my pastor friends have sympathized with me to the extent that we lovingly refer to each other as Barbs.  Humor helps when you’re being called names but it doesn’t thicken your skin.  The idea that a woman has to overcome her gender and appearance makes darts to heart sting more.  Dumb blonde jokes aren’t about men.

Fortunately, Barbie is made of plastic so she’s able to bounce back from harsh comments quicker than other ladies.  At 53 years old I wonder what advice she might have for Sandra Fluke the Georgetown law school student Rush Limbaugh referred to as a prostitute.  I can’t imagine how hard that’s been.  A week after the whirlwind of press coverage I wonder if it’s all sunk in with Ms. Fluke.

I would imagine when the shock wears off and the anger recedes her heart must feel bruised.  Regardless of how little regard you have for the offender name calling is still offensive.  It’s true that sticks and stones can break your bones but not true that names can never hurt you.  This saying is absurd.  Ask the fat kid whose spirit has been crushed by his peers if this is true.

Sadly, name calling isn’t just a reality on the playground its prevalent everywhere.  We have as many adults that think its okay as we do kids.  I don’t think I’m guilty but when I heard the news about Limbaugh what did I say?  “He’s an idiot.” A charge some might say isn’t as offensive as his remarks but it was wrong just the same.  Describing anyone with a negative label is sinful even if we don’t think of it that way.

In the 21st century name calling is a sin we tolerate.  Slander, harsh words, critical speech (even when it’s true), insults, sarcasm, and ridicule are all acceptable ways of communicating.  Despite the Bible’s warnings against this kind of speech it’s still prevalent amongst Christians.  Turn on Fox News or TBN if you disagree.

To call it sinful ruffles feathers.  We like to think only profanity is off-limits.  This isn’t what the Bible says.  Ephesians 4:29 is clear that we are not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.  Only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs is acceptable.  I’m certain that calling someone an idiot violates that standard.  Most people would also agree calling them a prostitute is way out of bounds. What about drama queen, prima donna, or high-strung?  These seem as benign as the Barbie comment but they aren’t.

Some of these descriptions might fit the bill but do they need to be said?  The answer is almost always no.  The questions we should be able to answer before we speak are: Is what I have to say kind and is it necessary?  To take it a step further, would you say what you’re about to, if you were sitting next to Jesus?   If not, be quiet.

Unfortunately, I don’t always remember this.  I often regret more than one word that slips out of my mouth even though I’ve been deeply hurt by unkind things said about me.  Have I been able to shake the Barbie Pastor comment years after the fact?  No, especially because it came from one of my colleagues.

The pen is mightier than the sword but the tongue is sharper than both.  Words are arrows pointed straight to the heart. They should never leave the quiver if they are less than kind or necessary.  Sin is sin, and none of it is more acceptable than others.

Do some sins have more collateral damage?  Yes, but if you don’t think hurtful words fall in that category you can’t remember the worst thing ever said about you.  I can.  I’m sure Sandra Fluke can.  I worry that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t.  I hope his unkindness reminds me I can do better in the future.    

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