When Words Become Toxic

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.—Genesis 1:27

For years now, my husband has been complaining about a trend in TV commercials and shows in which men are depicted as cavemen-like bumbling fools. But you can always count on the woman to set others right.

“They make men look like idiots!” my husband says.

The #MeToo movement, which started as a campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault, has resulted in the painting of a large target on the average man’s back.

Do some men deserve to be vilified? Absolutely. I’ve been on the receiving end of men’s bad behavior myself. But as a young woman, I—maybe like some of you— played games and broke hearts. I did not deserve the treatment I received, but I was by no means innocent.

But just as all women shouldn’t be branded as teases, neither should all men—or manhood itself—be branded as toxic. It is past time to stop the name calling.

It is never necessary to denigrate one entire group of people to elevate another. You will find bad behavior in every group of people. Some of it may be driven by genes, but every bit of it results from choices. Those choices speak of the individuals making them, not the demographics they represent.

I have lived through the bitterly contested Vietnam War era. I have witnessed race riots. But never have I seen our country more bitterly polarized than it is now, and never have I seen such an appetite for even greater polarization. We don’t need to hate people who are different from us, and we certainly don’t need to hate entire groups of people because of the actions of a few.

God made men. God made women. God made us different. He made women to be emotional and nurturers, qualities that sometimes lend themselves to manipulation. He made men to be protectors and providers, and sometimes men have misused and abused their power. But God designed men and women to be one another’s advocates, not adversaries.

We must be very careful when we paint with a broad brush. When we paint with a broad brush, we alienate and instigate. We use words like “toxic.” But when God, the master artist, paints with a broad brush, He uses words like “beloved” and “image-bearers.” Yes, He also sees us as sinners, sinners to whom He offers forgiveness and redemption. He holds individuals—men, women and children—accountable for their own sins. While we seek to rouse greater division, He calls us to greater unity.

Men and women are equally flawed. If we look closely enough, we will see it. God does. He was there when it all came down in the garden. He tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all desperately need the grace He offers. And it’s time we, as His image-bearers, reflect that same grace in the way we view and portray others.