Notes from Jan

Go Get the Soap!

January 13, 2018

Some call  washing a kid’s mouth out with soap, cruel.

Which is more cruel, spewing words like Donald Trump did the other day to label some countries and demean people who come from those lands or getting your mouth washed out with soap so you’ll learn to think before you speak?

It happened to me, as a kid, more than once but not often.  Early on, I learned words matter and soap leaves a disgusting taste.  Mama said, “Words hurt worse.”

Which brings me to my Norwegian heritage.  I don’t know any family or friend  in Norway who’d want to come to this country even if the door flung wide so all could come, assuming they were blonde, blue-eyed, very white and very, very smart or rich.

My grandparents and other relatives came as dreamers.  They lined up, endured conditions at Ellis Island, sometimes getting renamed by those who couldn’t understand their foreign tongue.  But nothing could dampen their excitement at coming to “the land of the free and home of the brave.”  So they booked passage, endured the lines, the jokes, menial jobs  because they believed anything was possible here except a foul-mouthed president who’d make them wish they’d never left.

What recently took place should serve as a reminder that words spoken behind closed doors, in our homes and elsewhere, have a way of  escaping.  If we do not decry such talk in our homes, in private conversations, how can we expect to salvage civility in the public square?

The book of Proverbs contains wise sayings.

“The speech of a good person clears the air: the words of the wicked pollute it.”(from Proverbs 10 in The Message)

Time to clear the air.

Make conversations at home, school or work, safe places…

or get the soap.










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  • Reply Dan Russ January 13, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Mr. Trump exemplifies that “honesty” is not a virtue, either biblically or classically. It is at best a secondary virtue when tempered by truth, love, and kindness. Otherwise it is a weapon and a fraud. Honesty is a weapon when used to attack, abuse, and destroy those who anger us or whom we hate. It is a fraud when those such as Trump are honest and abusive about some things and some people and do not own their own sins or even reveal their tax returns. Honesty is the mask he hides behind, and I suspect it would take an awful lot of soap to clean up his tongue and heart. Thanks for your bold wisdom and truthful words The soap worked!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks, Dan, for teaching us when honesty is not the BEST policy. Somewhere in the Bible it reminds us ” it’s from the heart, the mouth speaks. ” Cleaner hearts would make for cleaner speech. Isaiah wrote, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5 KJV Lord, have mercy. We need more than soap.

  • Reply Alice January 13, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Thanks so much, Jan, for nailing TRUTH to the wall of our minds about words and about presidents who offends us at every turn. ut I’d better be careful how I express my ire – or you’ll agree to wash my mouth out with soap!
    P.S. We are SLOWLY settling into our new life here – VERY slowly.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      May your settling in be blessed with joyful calm amidst the muddles.
      Yes, it’s challenging to refrain from using words as weapons of mass destruction.

  • Reply Mark Taylor January 13, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks, Jan. Well said.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Challenging times.
      You know well the power of words to harm, heal, instruct, bless.
      May the work of your hands, heart and mind be blessed by the One who is The Living Word of whom it is written, “In the beginning the Word already existed….So, the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” (John 1: 1a and 14a in the new Living Translation)

  • Reply wendy lane January 13, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Whoa – wouldn’t that be so awesome if someone gave our president a mouth full of soap!! Your Mama was so wise, words do hurt worse. My heart breaks for all those who have been deeply hurt by our president.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      It’s a reminder for all of us to think about what we say before we blurt it out. Casual talk reveals more about us than most of us would like made public. I’m preaching to myself. Compassionate and kind speech need bolstering in our homes and public places.

  • Reply Radina Welton January 13, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Amen, sister! Preach it, but not the soap remedy !. My brother and I often recall how traumatized we were when our younger brother had his mouth washed out with soap for saying “Gee” or “Gee whiz” because it was short for “Jesus “. That was the most violent we ever saw our mother who was really, as a widow responsible for 4 children, a very gentle soul. BUT to this day I feel revulsion strongly in my gut whenever I hear vulgar language and cursing. It’s even hard to sit through some real life depictions in rather well-done movies these days. It has become way too normal for my comfort. Words DO matter. Everyone seems to have a very limited vocabulary. Our schools/parents must do something about that!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      If not soap, something needs to slow down our impulsive speech and tendencies to encourage a “them” versus “us” mentality. As you wrote, “Words do matter.” Thanks, always, for reading and responding, Radina. However we do it…we need to “clean up our acts” and rediscover ways to use words without destroying relationships or breaking peace with other countries or people with whom we disagree. Heaven help us. There’s just so much soap can do.

  • Reply susan January 13, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks Jan. I just watched a new show by Dave Letterman on Netflix where the first person he interviewed was Barack Obama.
    What a powerful reminder of what true statesmanship and dignity look like.
    Happy New Year! xxoo

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      We need reminders of “true statesmanship and dignity” in our leaders. Happy New Year to you and Bob, as well, Susan. We also need to remind ourselves to lift the standards and be what we expect of our leaders.

  • Reply Pat McBain January 13, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you once again for your wise insight, Jan, and for the Proverbs reference…

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      You’re welcome, Pat. I’ve so much to learn. Grateful for each opportunity to put my best foot forward and not have to pull it out of my mouth.

  • Reply Jennifer Dickinson January 14, 2018 at 2:42 am

    Agree 100%!

  • Reply Marcia Lier January 14, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Oh Jan, you nailed it again! I love your gentle, strong voice. I have posted this on my Facebook page–I hope that’s legal–and I have sent it to my children. Its required reading. I will also send it to my siblings who all knew parents starting at the bottom. I am also busy countering comments that hurt souls of my students. I get to tell them they are beautiful and loved.

  • Reply Jan January 15, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Don’t know about legalities but thank you for reading and sharing, Marcia. You have a challenging role as you work with dreamers and children of dreamers. What a gift of hope and love you bring with you to school, better and more nourishing than a free lunch, though you probably do that, as well.

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