Do not curse the deaf.
It would be nice if I could say that I came across this verse in my own Bible reading and that the wisdom it offered occurred to me on my own so I could brag a bit and pontificate on it so you could all be blessed with my great wisdom. I hadn’t really thought of this part of the verse before. I’d had thought on the other part of the verse. It goes like this:
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.
My thoughts on this part of the verse weren’t too profound. I’d probably NOT win the insight of the year award, but I thought it was curious that 3500 years ago God was saying that it’s not funny to humiliate people. You can imagine a bunch of 14 year old kids yucking it up when the blind man falls over the secret obstacle they put in front him purely for their own pleasure. Now, as a society, we do this for sport and we sit in our living rooms and chortle as the unwary are run through humiliating ordeals simply for our delight. When you think of it that way, it’s frightening to realize how mean we are.
This foible isn’t lost on me either. I remember my dad scolding me right around my 18th birthday, when I laughed at a poor pick-up driver’s futile efforts to try to make it up a slippery, snowy, back country road. His rear end swinging all over the road struck me funny and I was bent over in glee. My dad laid into me, not really like him, for mocking someone in his despair. How could I laugh when someone else was in trouble, he’d asked. My sister, also, had, at one point, told me, when I was in High School, that she pitied the woman I ended up married to with the scorching tongue I had. I think she was being autobiographical and had probably been the subject of my biting remarks one too many times. We’ll have to ask my wife how she faired. Thankfully, I think I’ve mellowed a bit. Now I help people tone down their sarcasm for a living, a strange twist of fate.
But when I’ve read the above verse in the past, I went right by the “don’t curse the deaf” part. Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s comments on this verse in his wonderful book, Thou Shall Prosper, and says that this verse is an example of the Jewish idea that sin hurts the sinner as much as or more than the sinned against. He writes the deaf man wouldn’t know you are cursing at him because he can’t hear. But you shouldn’t do it anyway. Sin diminishes you. If you hurt somebody and they don’t know that you are hurting them, the end result is that you are the one who is less of a person.
Unfortunately, I see this sort of self-delusion all the time. I’ll quit drinking if you want, dear. What a bunch of crap. Here’s a guy who is drinking himself to oblivion and we feel so sorry for his wife and kids, but who’s the one who really suffers? The lout who’s wasting his life away on nothing. Here’s a guy who’s fritting away his life on porn and his wife is beside herself with grief when she finds out. How could he do this to me? Your heart has to go out to a spouse of someone wrapped up in a fantasy world like that. What agony. But who’s the one selling his soul to the devil here? The person who really is hurting is the one looking at porn! What is so bad about their life that they have to concentrate all their efforts and reduce life to boobs and butts? There’s a whole great big universe out there and this is where he put his efforts? And then you think it’s fine? Even fun? And your wife is a fuddy-duddy because she’s cramping your style?
Or the wife who’s having an affair and thinks it’s fine because she’s finally actualizing herself and discovering a side of herself she never thought she had and the affair has sent her into nirvana and aren’t you happy for me that I am finally happy?! Well, no. Our heart goes out to the poor sap married to this self-deluded wife, but the real pity needs to go to the wife who is justifying breaking one of the 10 Commandments and thinking it’s fine. How much less of a person can she be? Certainly affairs run havoc on the whole extended family on both sides and it introduces chaos and pain and heartache and violation and despair in the other loved ones, but the real person who is suffering, the real person who is hurting the most is the self-deluded adulterer that doesn’t even know they are hurting. Now that’s a problem.
So, I will say it here first. No one else will say it, save the random preacher here or there. Who is the most diminished, the most hurting, the most self-deluded, the most-to-be-pitied person out there? Drum roll please: Hugh Hefner. There, I said it. The trail of tears he’s left in ruined families, broken hearts, degraded women, and addicted men, weaves all the way to hell and back and you’ve got to feel sorry for them. But then, in spite of this, he pontificates the error of morality and has an air of the superiority when he preaches that boundaries are bad. Look at me! Look at how much pleasure I have had! Look at my idyllic lifestyle. Envy me! Buy my DVD’s and magazines and subscribe to my web site! Discover the truth of untruth! Be warmed and be filled with fantasy and lust! Grovel in how boring your life is compared to mine! And E! Television presents him as an ideal with 3 blond bombshells old enough to be his grandkids! Or even great-grandkids! And he’s to be envied? Is there anything more pathetic? No, not that he should be envied. Him. His life! His shriveled up, wrinkled, sagging life.
I suppose in exposing Hefner’s frailty I might be in danger of cursing the deaf. I’d best be careful.