41. Real Or Perceived?

“Tension, to a very large degree,
 may be called the prevailing malady
 of the American people.”
— Norman Vincent Peale


When five-year-old Billy stomped into my kitchen and accused my three-year-old daughter of calling him a bad name, naturally I wanted to try and amend the situation. So I walked outside to where the two of them had been playing and gently confronted Lisa: “Billy told me that you called him a bad name.” Lisa frowned, ducked her head and continued to play with the toy she held firmly in her grip.

“Yes you did!” Billy shouted. (I could tell he was just warming up to do battle.)

Lisa remained silent.

“Did you call Billy a name, Lisa?” I coaxed.

“Yes she did!” the little boy insisted. “And it was a really bad one!”

This intrigued me because I wasn’t aware that my angelic daughter knew any “really bad” names to use as ammunition against her playmates. So I asked Billy, “What did she call you?” Lisa looked up at me with tears glistening in her eyes. Seeing her remorseful expression, I braced myself for the worst.

“A codfish!” Billy replied. “That’s what she called me. A codfish!”

I covered my grin and asked Lisa to tell Billy, “Sorry,” and the two resumed their pretending.

Where do our children get these things? Well, in this case, from a Walt Disney story about Peter Pan. How was I to know that my daughter would draw from Peter’s line, “Captain Hook, you’re a codfish!” when she needed a good strong word to use against her perceived enemy? I simply chalked it up to yet another parenting blunder on my part and got on with my day….

Three decades later, I remembered little Billy after a chance encounter with a woman who graduated from the same high school that I did. She told me that her son had experienced adversity due to some life choices that he’d made. I thought Lisa might want to pray for him, since the two had journeyed from elementary through high school together. But I got a completely unexpected response when I shared the story with my daughter. She said: “Good! He and his friend tormented me all the way through middle school!”

A funny thing about our enemies: They sometimes appear unrecognizable and completely non-threatening to others. Let’s explore that conundrum, keeping in mind that we’re about to enter a supernatural war zone.

And to my King be the glory forever and ever … even when He’s tempted to call me a codfish.


“Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended.
He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious
will have the king for his friend.”

(Proverbs 22:10-11)



Think about words that carry with them the stigma of being “bad.” Do you feel comfortable using some words in a certain crowd, but not in others? If you used those same words in conversation with someone from another country, would they be offended? Why or why not? Phone a Christian friend and talk about it.