The OM_! Phenomenon

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The OM_! Phenomenon

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I was struck by a recent commercial. The scenarios weren't surprising.

Geared toward teen girls, it advertised a deodorant that could withstand typical teen stresses of extra homework (scream!), demanding teachers (scream!) and teen friendships and relationships (scream!). The product's tag line was: "For every OM_ moment." (Yes, we took the "G" out to try to help those of us who don't want that phrase going through our heads.)

Standard slang

That abbreviated phrase comes from instant messaging and texting. Yahoo advertises an "OM_!" Web page detailing celebrity fashion dos and don'ts. But the words are neither new nor obscure.

Television sitcoms and movies have included the phrase for decades, and it's frequently used at school, on campus, at work or around town. Perhaps you've even said it a time or two.

Rest assured, everyday stresses are certainly not to be belittled. Teenage years in particular are challenging for many reasons. But if you use the phrase casually in your regular conversation or the abbreviated version when you text, you might be surprised what the Bible says.

Back to basics

Most people are familiar with the Ten Commandments, though perhaps a bit rusty with the third one: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7, emphasis added throughout).

God stated "in vain" twice. The general definition: to render something empty, void, meaningless or to misuse.

Have you ever heard a word so many times that it sounds strange? A word or phrase loses meaning when repeated too often. This is the caution of the Third Commandment.

Weighty words

Note the last half of the commandment: "For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Jesus tells us we are in fact held responsible for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37). Idly misusing God's name is also included.

What it implies

If we casually repeat God's name without meaning, or "in vain," our attitude is irreverent—that is, disrespectful to God. It's sincerely doubtful that most people use "OM_!" to genuinely declare over and over that the true God is their God.

Simply put, using the phrase to express any mundane event or casual emotion sends a clear message of disregard or contempt. Likewise, abusing Jesus' name sends the same message, and calling a common or vile thing "holy" is also extremely disrespectful.

The abundant heart

So is the phrase ever appropriate? Actually, variations of it are abundant in the Psalms (see Psalm 22:1-2 for an example).

King David poured out all his emotions in his prayers to God, running the gamut from complete frustration and anger to absolute ecstasy and joy. But despite frequent use of the phrase and its variants, David didn't abuse His Creator's name. Why? Because his heart was in the right place.

David's approach was always one of complete respect toward God, not once flippant or casual. He looked to God for solutions, unburdened his concerns and expressed his praise with a sincere attitude. We can learn much from his heart and example.

When the moments do come that cause you to react with surprise, shock, humor or pain, avoid the disrespectful slang. To learn more, check out "The Third Commandment: From Profanity to Praise." VT