THE MARRIED WITH CHILDREN SYNDROME
There was a TV show that ran for a few years called "Married with Children". It is probably still running some places as a rerun. The show revolved around a dysfunctional family that would trade insults with each other. The point of the dialogue of every episode seemed to be how badly the characters could ridicule each other. The point of nearly every exchange was to tear someone down and verbally assault them. The whole show was sick and evil. It was of course presented as a comedy.
That is the way that sinister anti-Christian writers like to present things. They like to get people to laugh at evil things.
The scripture specifically condemns this behavior. "Never let evil talk pass your lips; (EPH 4:29). "You must put all that aside now: all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language." (COL 3:8). St. Paul lumps insults and foul language together. They run in the same gutter.
These passages of scripture appear to be unknown to many Christians today. Perhaps it’s due to the influence of too many series like "Married With Children". Many people who wouldn’t dream of uttering an obscene joke no matter how clever or funny they thought it was, wouldn’t think twice about using insults as a joke.
Some folks are even in the habit of using insults as a means to show friendliness, strange as it sounds. That is really bizarre. It is also unchristian. Insults and ridicule are an offense against charity. There is no such thing as a friendly insult.
Some folks are in the habit of insulting family members as a joke. Either they think they will get a laugh from it, or for some other reason. They are always ready with a snappy one-liner. Yet if you asked them to give a compliment they would have only a dull stare.
Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross to turn us into a bunch of Don Rickles. He came to redeem us, and transform our lives, so that we can be with Him in heaven. To help us in that process we need to use the scriptures as a guide to daily living.
When St. Paul tells us "no more shouting or insults" he means just that. He doesn’t mean no more insults unless its just a friend/family member. He doesn’t give any exceptions to prove how clever you are at the expense of those around you. He means no more insults. None for any reason. It doesn’t matter how clever it is, whether we just heard it, or thought it up, or how much someone has been insulting us.
Insults and ridicule lead to hardness of heart in both giver and receiver. People might laugh at a clever put downs aimed at themselves but that just means they have hardened their heart. People who have hardened their hearts will miss many gentle messages that the Holy Spirit may try to give them.
Some might use insults as a form of verbal self defense. Jesus told us to "turn the other cheek" (MAT 5:39) It’s safe to say he meant that in a verbal as well as non verbal way. St. Peter tells us "Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing" (1 PET 3:9). He holds Christ as the example for us all when he relays, "When he was insulted, he returned no insult;" (1 PET 2:23). It can be a great trial to be the but of insults or jokes that the Christian virtue of charity will not let you send back. That’s the difference between calling ourselves Christian and being Christian.
What can we do to keep from falling in to such a rotten habit? Again the scripture gives us a guide. "Anticipate one another in showing respect" (ROM 12:10). The Revised Standard Version translation of this verse is even better: "out do one another in showing honor." Instead of trying to out do each other with clever insults, we should try to out do each other with compliments. Many might be afraid to give compliments because they are unused to it, or it might leave them feeling vulnerable. If we do something often enough we get used to it.
Next time you are with family or friends, consciously, actively think how you will not violate the commandments of scripture or the will of Christ. Think how you can give a compliment instead of an insult. In other words think how you can be like Jesus and not fall into the “Married With Children” syndrome.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, May 2000.