Did you ever use a racial, religious, ethnic, body shaming, gender or other epithet when you were in 3d grade? 8th? 12th? Did you ever call someone a “name”? Or use such a term in a joke? Or while talking with others? If you say “no” – I’m not sure I would believe you. Either way, it leads to the vexing question of whether a man or woman should be judged by the worst thing they ever said (or did) when they were a child? Or teenager? Yet that seems to be the demand of some self-righteous souls who are quick to condemn others for things that happened in their adolescence.
As time goes on, and the maturation process continues, we learn. I am not the “boy ” I was when I was 16. I’m probably guilty of using bad words when I was 9 years old. Or 18. You want to see what happened to me when I used a slur when I was 12 years old? Read my post of July 30, 2017. But the child of then is not the “me” of today. Yet the current demand for adolescent accountability begs two serious questions: what if at the time (50 years ago), such commentary was viewed differently. Is it appropriate to judge people for words and deeds in the past by the selective moral compass of today? Then there is the question of whether there should be forgiveness for words or deeds done in one’s adolescence — when one’s current life is exemplary — and does not reflect the “bad words” spoken in ages past. We forgive criminals when they get out of prison. Christians seem to forgive Saint Paul for once being Saul of Tarsus. Why not forgive those who use bad words in adolescence? How about forgiving those older folks who are contrite and repentant about stupid comments? Is there a difference between an “offense” and “insensitivity”?
I have grown up. As just maybe you have too. While you and I said and did stupid things when were were 12 years old – or 18 – we are not the same person today. This notion of maturation is even Biblical (I Corinthians 13:11): When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. So tell me — should your son or daughter be condemned forever and denied occupation — because of some ill-chosen words spoken or acts of stupidity when they were in grade school, high school or college? How about an ill-tempered word in adulthood? If you believe they – and others – should be condemned, then you – who are without sin – pick up the first rock. And let ’em have it. . . . .