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written by
Shona Neff

Stepping out onto the sidewalk the black eye forming on my son’s face hit me as it if was my own. A group of thugs, not present before I stepped into the ladies room, now lined the cinder-block building. Although the specifics were hidden, it was no secret that a brawl had taken place in my absence -- my son bore the unfortunate sign of going solo in the midst of the prowling gang.

As we walked away, I looked over my shoulder and hurled a few scathing words at the hoodlums making it clear that their brutal act had not gone unnoticed. As I woke from the horrific dream, the momma bear in me was aching to go hand-to-hand with those punks even though they were just players in a dream.

Thugs are everywhere: dreams, streets, public places, and stores. We don’t expect to encounter them in homes, churches, and safe places, but not all bad people hit with their fists. Sometimes they batter their prey with words and attitudes forgetting all semblances of love. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been an unloving thug on occasion.

So what do these brutes look like when inhabiting supposedly safe places? They can look like you and me, but toxic words and attitudes often bubble just beneath the surface of seemingly harmless appearances.

Many cruel and loveless acts are performed at the hands of church people. Most of us have heard stories of down-and-out people seeking refuge in a Sunday morning service only to be scoffed at because their clothes were dirty or torn. Maybe they smelled. After rejection at the hands of the world, the same piercing sting came from people who should have embraced them. It may not be a black eye, but neither is it a display of loving behavior.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve played the thug in my own home. As a mother and wife, I have spewed ugly words with the intent to hurt. Immature children sling verbal poison at times. And, although we shouldn’t, sometimes we moms answer back with our own cutting words. At least I have. I’ve done the same thing with my husband. We love each other, but all play the thug at times.

When the dust settles on the non-physical brawls of unkind words and attitudes, it is good to act on the forgiveness that Jesus teaches. Seeking forgiveness is the best way to put thuggish behavior to rest while, at the same time, healing the ugliness that spills onto others. Only then does love flow freely.

We all have the potential to act like thugs. Self-centered behavior that demands our own way is a great place to start. Forcing others to accept our beliefs helps us speed down the “Boulevard of Unloving Acts.” Even when we believe we are supported by truth, it is never right to tell others what to do or hit them over the head with self-righteous attitudes. Our job is to love others; God takes care of the rest.

As we enter the Christmas the season, let us show good will toward ALL men. For those who look different from us, those whose attitude do not match ours, and even those who are actual thugs . . . let us show them the love that descended from heaven, manifest as a babe in a manger. God’s love breaks through the hearts and minds of all men, women, children, and, yes, thugs. Instead of leaving a wake of black eyes, let us open our arms and give the gift of love.

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also outght to love one another. No one  has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
(1 John 4:10-12 NIV).

Shona Neff loves to ponder the things of God. Whether it is an odd dream, as in this post, or life in general, she looks for godly parallels in all things.

She is a personality mechanic who helps others keep relationships running smooth. Visit her at and start building your personality tool box so you can better understand and interact with your family and friends.

Shona lives in northern New Mexico with her husband and trio of terriers. She has two college-age sons.

Shona, thank you sweet friend, for sharing such a powerful message with us today. It is a pain that many feel. A deep hurt that we secretly carry and one that most do not dare to share. It is often said, "Hurt people, hurt people." That is so very true. Our words carry such power. May this be a reminder to us to speak with love, to act in love and to live in love.
Blessings to you, Shona. I pray you will return as a guest writer and share with us again soon.


Shona Neff said…
Just in case anyone reads this, I chuckled as I read my words. About mid-point in the article I use the term "bad people". Probably not the best phrase to get my point across. the meaning behind that probably would have been better expressed by using "imperfect". I don't think the people I'm talking about here are "bad", but rather imperfect.

I hope I didn't offend anyone and prevent the intended message from being delivered :)

Robin Prater said…
Shona, thank you for sharing with me and my readers today. What a blessed message.

I think everyone who reads will understand your words exactly. When we think of thugs we think of bad people, but you and I are those people acting badly at times. Makes total sense to me.

You are a rich blessing! Thank you!
Kelley said…
Wonderful post, Shona. I read a similar one just the other day by a friend who talked about how her hurtful words deflated her husband. I know I've done my share of that. :(

Shona, your post also makes me think of one of my daughter's best friends, who has been hurt by the church. It's a long story, and some of the pain she brought on herself by the choices she made. I know I've been hurt by the church at times, sometimes deserved, but not always, and it's left me with plenty of bruises. Anyway, I was just reading an excerpt of Ravi Zacharias's book "Has Christianity Failed You?" and wow, I'm thinking I might have to buy that book for my daughter's friend. I didn't want to stop reading!

What I pray is that we can look past the hurtful people and focus on Christ.
Shona Neff said…
Kelley, it's unfortunate that hurt people often look at Christ through the lenses of our imperfections and bad actions and words. IT happens, but hopefully they won't stop seeking just on the basis of the a few of our ungracious moments.
Robin Prater said…
Wow, you girls are sharing such valuable information. I too have been hurt by people at church and it can be so very hard to look past, but if we don't choose to forgive and look past it, then it becomes a bristle pad that continues rub us the wrong way until our heart is raw.

Love you ladies so much!
Sunny Shell said…
Hello sweet Shona!

Ha, ha, ha... I didn't even remember reading "bad people", so I had to go back and find it! :D

I got your message. :) It was good. It is true.♥

The only thing I wanted to add is this: "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." ~Proverbs 27:5-6 (ESV)

Sometimes (like when I'm in sin), I need a friend to love me enough to "wound" me with the truth. It hurts (all discipline does [Heb 12:11]), but we are promised by God that all who receive it, WILL bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. :)

Sure appreciate you writing this piece Shona!♥
Elizabeth said…
S , thanks for writing this beautiful and important piece. I was hit by a thug this week , then I became the thug in return. Still hurting from it too. I had to calm my heart and mind and go over how the Lord would have preferred I treat this person so dear to me. And to forgive , just as He has forgiven me.

( And , by the way , I didn't notice either , the comment about bad people. I think it was very clear what you meant. )
Love ,E
Shona, I love this! You are so gifted! I will pass this along during this Christmas season! It's just the reminder we need to be Jesus to others!

Love and Blessings during the special time of year!


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