Is a woman’s “sin” of swearing worse than a man’s sin of abuse?

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Share with a woman who needs hope!

I get life-giving feedback almost every day. Makes my job a joy.

But I also get letters like this little gem:

Natalie,

I’m a Christian pastor. May I respectfully ask: why do you swear in your email, immediately after stating that this program is for divorced Christians? How is that glorifying God, or pointing women ultimately to Christ as their life (Colossians 3:1-4)? It seems quite inconsistent.

I wish you well. Thanks for your time.

Grace to you.

—RM

The program he was referring to is Flying Higher, my program for divorced Christian women.

The swear word he was referring to was “badass.”

The Bible verses he selected to chastise me with were these:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m guessing he was thinking of “badass” as earthly?

Just like food, cars, “top-of-the-morning-to-you,” and computers?

It was hard for me to feel chastised by God with that particular selection of verses. I mean, if I were going to passive-aggressively beat someone upside the head with the Bible for saying “badass,” I’d have chosen Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

The only problem with that verse is that I was using the word “badass” to build women up and benefit them.

Oi. Such a confusing conundrum.

In our culture today, in the context in which it was used in my email, a badass is a “formidably impressive person. Excellent.”

It’s just my personal opinion, but I think it’s the perfect word to describe what Christian divorced women can become as they are empowered to live into their God-given personhood as daughters of the King.

It’s cultural slang used in the way “sick” is used to mean awesome or amazing. To imply the polar opposite of the normal meaning of the word.

An “ass” is a donkey (used in the Bible like, a lot), but the word is also used to mean a foolish or stupid person in some contexts. And, it can also refer to buttocks in other contexts.

Now, there may be some reading this who think this letter was a perfectly innocent, loving letter from a good man who means well. And that’s fine. I envy that viewpoint, and if it makes you happy and serves your life in some way – then keep it.

I would have shared your viewpoint ten years ago. My brain actually wanted to give pastors credibility while throwing myself under the bus in a heap of sorrowful shame. I was programmed to do that since I was a small child.

But after 40 years of watching and experiencing copious amounts of emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse through three different churches and two families – in addition to talking with thousands of Christian women about their experiences – and reading hundreds of letters like this one written to Christian women – as well over 200 books about how emotional and spiritual abuse works – that’s a view I can’t afford to relax in and enjoy anymore.

I can sniff a fraud a mile away. No. For real. I’m like a bear that way. My husband will tell you it’s one of my superpowers.

Here’s the thing.

There are Christians who are largely unaware of current cultural norms and are therefore unable to relate to, enter into, or hold space for all the people who live inside of that culture. This is actually something they have the opportunity (and responsibility – especially if they are a pastor) to grow in if they:

1. Are willing to humble themselves and have a learning mind instead of believing they are more spiritual than everyone else because they don’t swear, drink, or wear pantyhose (or is it if they DO wear pantyhose? Augh, I can’t ever remember which is right or wrong when it comes to the pantyhose. I’m pretty sure I know the rules about bras though.)

2. Desire to imitate Jesus Christ who was 100% all in on the culture He was born into. You know. Because…LOVE.

Remember that Jesus angered the pious pastors of his day too. Why? Because He was breaking all their rules.

Sound familiar?

I’d rather be in the trenches making mistakes and getting messy but also helping women be badass than on a pedestal making sure I’m never making any mistakes and pleasing all the RH’s of the world.

Who are we worshipping anyway? Men or God?

Worshiping men will lead to fear, control, anger, frustration, failure, condemnation, and ultimate destruction.

Worshipping Jesus leads to love, holding space for others, peace, joy, growth, freedom, transformation, and ultimate LIFE.

I’ll take Jesus over fraudulent authority every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

If this pastor had continued reading in his Bible, he would have eventually come to these verses in chapter three:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And if he had read the chapter before chapter three, he would have read this:

2:18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility…disqualify you.

Hmmm….very interesting.

And he would have also read these verses:

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

But he was miffed at me (in the kindest, most holy way) for using the word “badass,” and the man couldn’t see or read straight after that.

As one of our Flying Free community members wrote in our private forum:

“You [spiritually] blind guides, who strain out a gnat [consuming yourselves with miniscule matters] and swallow a camel [ignoring and violating God’s precepts]! God’s precepts to love and care and to stand for justice…”

Poor man. Does he not understand what badass even means especially in the context of escaping abuse? This is another example of invalidating and turning a blind eye to the actual problem. Blind guide of the blind. God help us all to open our eyes.”

Yes. God help us.

I wasn’t going to respond. I deleted the email and took him off my mailing list because he is obviously not a Christian female abuse survivor.

But then I thought about how these guys arrogantly (using spiritual rhetoric, of course – to fool good folks who don’t have a lot of experience with frauds) push their weight around trying to shame women back into “their place.” And I wanted him to know I wasn’t ashamed for saying “badass.”

And he didn’t fool me.

Goodness, no.

I was amused that he, a grown ass man, couldn’t hack it. (Oh dear…there’s that word again. My little boys get very upset when they hear a swear word. But they have the excuse of being sensitive little boys rather than mature men.)

And I was grieved that he was using his position as a representative of Jesus to wield the Bible like a weapon of control in order to assuage his childish sensitivities.

And then I was mad to think that it’s very possible (probable?) he’s just being a condescending ass who believes he’s God’s gift to the world, destined to force everyone into being as holy and amazeballs as he is. (I know – this last one is me being messy. I’m a work in progress, no doubt about it. But I’m also probably right.)

So many thoughts and emotions. I own every single one. I’m a hot mess.

But ashamed? I did not think any thoughts that would cause me feelings of shame.

Good morning, RH,

I’m a badass Christian woman who helps other badass Christian women. That doesn’t sound like you.

Crazy in love with Jesus (who was also pretty badass),

Natalie

I get kind of snarky sometimes. But I really do love Jesus with all my heart, and that’s why letters like this are a problem for me

Ladies – remember what Paul says in Colossians 2:18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility…disqualify you.

XOXO,

Natalie

P.S. Ten years ago a letter like this would have had me weeping in my tea from shame. If you struggle with the fear of men, I’d love to help you deprogram from spiritual abuse so you can live from a place of peace and love and freedom, knowing you are wildly beloved by your Creator. There is no shame when we are daughters of God and actually live into that reality. Join me in the Flying Free Sisterhood program. If you aren’t badass today – you will be SO badass after spending a year with me. Go HERE to learn more.

25 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Welp. Weird or not, one of my prayers where I KNOW God heard me was literally two words, said in a shriek of fear, ‘F****** hell!’ And God still loves me. And He totally and utterly understood that prayer. I was bloody terrified at the time. It’s tricky because we are not to be stumbling blocks for each other. But many, many, many Christian’s who do not swear, I say this; In your spirit God has been listen you your ‘not swearing’ swearing inside for a very long time, and He still loves you! And He is waiting for you to be truthful and out with it, so He can say, ‘Well done! At last you are telling Me the truth!’ For some of us, the capacity to swear brings a liberation and a freedom in Christ that we were never allowed to have. I have sworn all my life. I swear like a trooper. I’ve tried to give up. I prayed, and prayed, felt guilty, condemned myself, said sorry, repeat a million times. I even sat on the naughty step till my son pathetically came and said, ‘Mummy i am getting lonely….’(it was a minute for each year….) so I gave up. I recently did a testimony at my church where I stood up and testified something like,’ I have tried so long and so hard to give up swearing, but it’s never fucking well happened, and now I realise that it’s just part of me….and I will not condemn myself any more.’ If God came to save sinners then believe me, He is used to swearing. And if He wants me to stop, He will tell me himself.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I love this SO MUCH. Your God is big enough to handle big emotions and swearing. ❤️ That other god? Not so much.

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        You know, we make God so small. Because instead of allowing Him to translate His word into Life for us, we use it and read it as law for us. We don’t actually TRUST that this God is FOR us. For many of us women, we have had male role models that put us off God as we perceive Him as ‘male.’ I actually cannot call God, ‘Father’ easily. My dad was a monster, and I thought God was the same. Recently, He showed me how much He truly understood my allergic reaction to parental labels for Him, and suggested I call Him ‘Buttercup.’ I said to Him, ‘That’s so weird! Why. Buttercup?’ He replied that buttercups are easily crushed. And that it showed me He was not going to bully or force me to come to Him, because of all the abuse I have received at the hands of men, (and women for that matter) but that He would be there, and I can come to Him myself when I want too. I still feel weird about that. But I am learning this God is not the monster I was taught He was. God is not a controller or a manipulator. He is a Buttercup. Easily crushed and stamped on. Easily unnoticeable. Yet. Glowing with life, love and beauty. Gods strength is not like the strength of men. For OUR God is a God who rules by submission, who rules, and defeated death by His very surrender to death. Our God is a gentle God. And He can heal the male wounds we have been given and inherited.

        Reply
        • Natalie Hoffman

          I love this – it reminds me of how the Bible calls Jesus the lamb of God. And a suckling lamb, no less. Not a super powerful image. But the power is in the profound Truth behind it. He who has ears to hear and all that…

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          • Avatar

            That’s half the problem. We have been taught a patriarchal image of what power is; power is force. Power is state. Power is nationalism.. Power is military might. Etc, etc. No. It’s not. What you sow you reap. Bullets do not save. Bullets kill. And then those whose fathers are killed on the battle field are taught to hate, and so pick up bullets to revenge. On and on it goes. And we see throughout history this played out, countries rising and falling, all because they use the same kind of right handed power! The sword hand! Jesus used left handed power! The power of surrender and submission. If we surrender to death as Jesus did, we are actually going into eternal life. Death is not just physical death. Death is every single thing that is not love. Every choice we make we will either die more or live more every day! Our choices orient our face to our way of being; either to Life or darkness. (Death) We have to see what it is every day we are doing that is not of loves kind. And we have to die to that. Because BY dying like that we then enter life! The more we practise that kind of death the more life we find, until finally when our time comes to exit this world it’s just a gauzy wedding veil into Life as the bride of Christ.

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        • Avatar

          Thank you for sharing such beauty-it makes me cry, and I don’t do that easily. God is so good. Precious treasure and we’re made in his image.

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            So much treasure. But we miss it because we are not taught to SEE it in each other! WE are the body of Christ. One of the reasons christianity is failing in churches all over the world is simple. Half of its body and voice is missing. It’s hopping on one leg. And the half that is missing? Is the voice of its equal female part. Until we are treated equally in church we will continue to only hear mostly the male side. Some males are beautiful and stand with Christ and women as the whole body. Most do not. And their teaching does not. Women are the part of the body that can call men back into Christ! So the ones we have are ones only standing in THEIR authority and not Christs! Hence the half body and hobbling of that body!

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            • Avatar

              Clarifying, ‘the ones we see’ are the men who use authority for their own agendas and not to bless the women in Christ!’

            • Avatar

              Absolutely! Its something I can now “see”- so can’t under it. I heard Dr Tim Mackie from Bible project, say that in Genesis, when God made a ” helper ” for the man, it should be translated ” saviour”. !!!!!!!!!!!Shock!

      • Avatar

        I did a lot of laughing and giggling through your article. I’ve been a Christian for 45 years and found myself using poignant expletives to express the depth of my angst and anger bc all of the “other” words weren’t seemingly doing the trick. I realize that I really only feel the need to use this useful language around my husband or regarding him! One day I realized that there was so many multiple upon multiple times I’d used such patience, wisdom, “love”, and grace in addressing an issue with my husband, but this seemed to go in one ear and out the other. So I figured it was time to just say it all again, as many things that bubbled up out of all my pain and suffering. I made a very conscious decision to make up for lost time and let rip sans all my lovely Christian filters. The end result was me feeling quite free and my husband asking me to refrain from using such language! Then I ripped into him even more, stating how he’d been swearing for years and now he gets to tell ME he doesn’t want me doing it. Well guess what? I’ll do it even more then. I rarely say “heck” any more (I say HELL!) and now he gets a kick out of it. He’s beginning to see I’m serious and I AM CHANGING. I AM GOING TO DO AND SAY WHAT I WANT. And btw, I came home with a fake tattoo (a henna) I got at the fair where I treated myself to a whole day of doing whatever the hell I wanted. But he wasn’t too enthusiastic when he saw it. In fact when I informed him him it was a trial run for a real tat, he was quite discouraging. Mind you, he has an arm and a leg with tats and early in our marriage when our budget was tight he just came home with one. Now he has the gall to pull this sh*t on me. I’ll get a tat when I’m ready. I’ve wanted a butterfly way before I discovered Flying Free. In fact one of the VERY reasons I even checked FF out was because you had a butterfly as a part of your identity. I have a whole story about why butterflies have been vital to me since 2021, but that story is for another time.
        So anyway, I’m completely refreshed by this conversation. And Natalie, thank you for ALL you do. You are just wonderful!

        Reply
        • Natalie Hoffman

          Send me pics of your tattoo when you get one! You badass butterfly, you!

          Reply
  2. Avatar

    I just love this, Natalie. Well done. You have helped me so much already and I’m barely two months into flying free.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    The body of Christ and myself grieve and pray for your soul! You are directly contradicting Gods perfect Word. Bring this to the Lord in prayer. If you were hurt by churches in the past, you need ministerial help and counseling. It does not give you authority to lead vulnerable women into willful sin thinking unwholesome talk is acceptable. Ephesians 5: “There must not be any bad language or foolish talk or dirty jokes. They are out of place. Instead, you should give thanks“. All Christians myself included who continue on blatantly sinning are blinded by pride and need to repent. I’m not perfect, but I’m saying this out of love for your eternal soul. This is a dangerous line to be walking. You are doing exactly what those churches did to you, leading them towards the wide road to destruction, away from our spotless redeemer, Christ! Again I grieve for you, hope you repent and I pray for you deeply!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I usually just delete spiritually abusive comments, but I want to invite survivors to answer this woman who claims to be a “lover of Christ” but is unable to muster even a little love and grace here for survivors. You would not catch this woman eating with sinners the way Christ did, and she is unequipped to hold space for survivors. Her email is [email protected], so I’m guessing it is someone who represents FOTF which is not surprising. Her comment could not be more perfect for illustrating the fraudulent Christianity I refer to in this post. Notice how she tries to use fear to manipulate and guilt-shame? This is a tactic of the devil. There is no fear in love, and I promise, God’s love is big enough for all of us here, including this woman who is so riddled by fear of her abuser-god that she feels the need to spew chocolate-covered venom on a survivor website.

      Reply
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        First I have to say that I totally understand where ‘The lover of Christ’ is coming from. I used to run in those circles. I love God!! Memorizing scripture, going to church 3- 4 times a week, serving as much as I could, reading my Bible as often as I could, dressing modestly (so I wouldn’t cause a man to sin), homeschooling my kids, not watching tv, never using curse words, no drinking and being a pillar in my church community. I did it all! I thought it was real love, but in the pit of my stomach I felt so unworthy all the time. I felt awful and like a big hypocrite. Pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Like something was wrong with me. My church family told me it was my sin nature of pride. We all had it. But what about Christ setting the captives free. Did Jesus lie? Was the Cross not real? I felt like I was still in this icky bondage of sin!!!

        I am a very strong willed woman, which in a christian home, is not a good attribute for a woman to have. My husband felt threatened by me and would abuse his power in our home. My body and my life was in his hands. He made sure he exercised his God given right to points I am not going to even mention. 3 decades the church and christian counselors handed me a list of things to do so I could please my husband. It was all on me to fix it. In my husbands universe, I was never good enough. He has called me ungodly on numerous occasions. I was literally being destroyed from the inside out by my marriage and my church. I was not shinning for Christ like Jesus taught. I had buried my gifts and talents all in the name of saving my marriage and pleasing the church. Who was I, but a broken servant who wanted to be taken home to her God.

        As I have crawled my way out from under this abusive mans power (my marriage) I have come across such evil from the church it makes my skin crawl. With self righteousness church people have called me ungodly, slanderous and a gossip. As if the scriptures are used to keep us in line, but they don’t pertain to those who are doing the sword swinging. I have not found the passage that allows this kind of abuse by the church. Never did Jesus gang up on fellow humans to do harm by using shame or manipulation. As soon as I got out of the church run programming, they turned on me. The same love toting men and woman I studied and served together with were now ignoring me and slandering my name. The church does not demonstrate the love of Christ. I think Jesus called them a pit of vipers.

        As I was walking through this dark place of being shunned and minimized by other believers, God never left me and I never lost faith (a lot of woman do, thanks to the harmful church practices). God had me, not the church. After all, I was His. He said, do you trust me?

        Finding Natalie Hoffman’s program has been a gift from God. She is not remotely causing me to sin, but has showed me the love of Christ that no church ever emanated. I am learning who God made me to be and to listen to the Holy Spirit that indwells in each of us. The passages of scripture that churches over looked are coming alive for the first time. Jesus was not in line with the churches of His time and I do not think God is remotely inline with the churches today. I am now listening to God’s voice without the drivel of others perceptions and it is stunning. Three decades of personal church counseling and I can say that not once did I feel the love of Christ. I felt all the gifts of darkness ascend on me while being under the church. Because of Natalie, I am for the first time, seeing the fruits of the spirit burst forth without any work on my part. It is truly emanating from the love of Christ within the temple…..me.

        Sometimes when we hear hard truth, we just don’t want to see it. For decades God has been trying to get my attention. I finally listened. Natalie helps me to navigate and hear God’s voice. She never ever tells us what to do. We get to make our own choices for the life God gave us to be held accountable too. My life is on fire for God. I am not in a closet of shame or guilt anymore!! You can keep that all to yourself.

        I actually pray for our churches today. I pray that they get out from behind their performance types of teaching that cause harm and into real love. That they can embrace each individual person like a unique piece of art that God created. To see God’s love as a gift of His free will instead of something to be earned.

        So when people like Natalie and me use the word ‘badass’, God truly is not angry at us. He loves us in all our amazing parts, because He made us. You see, if he didn’t love us in all our brokenness, He would never have sent Jesus. So to make God’s love superficial, we are truly putting God into a very small box. The God I am learning about now, is very big and amazing! I am now busy doing God’s work, instead of trying to fix a harmful marriage. Natalie is a blessing, not a curse to anybody. She is an amazing woman. I have met her and she truly radiates God’s love for others. She is a beautiful sister in Christ that is doing amazing work for God! I am blessed to know here and so many other ‘badass’ woman in her program. I love my sisters!!!!

        Reply
        • Natalie Hoffman

          Thank you for taking your precious time to share your testimony of how GOD has shown His deep love for you in spite of the bitter judgment of those who call themselves Christians. Your story is a demonstration of what it means to follow Jesus, and I know it will encourage other survivors who were gaslit by this woman’s condemnation.

          Reply
      • Avatar

        Chocolate covered venom-I love how you put things Natalie=you are so amazingly articulate and amusing and inspiring- and possibly good for diets- Will I ever look at chocolate the same way??

        Reply
    • Avatar

      I came from churches like yours, microscopic focus on the women’s sin while Pastors were addicted to porn, beat their own wife and children, and sent away abused women to return back home to their abuser; telling them they must submit, live quiet lives, try harder to please their husbands, do not utter a word of complaint against him but respect his authority. WOW, that’s all I can say. I have no words for you. You are part of the problem.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      Dear Lover of Christ. First and foremost, I want to say that I will be praying for you. Not trying to be combative. That is not the goal here. But I pray that you will encounter the REAL Jesus. The one who completed the work at the cross. We don’t have to “do” anything to get into the kingdom nor “do” anything to STAY in the kingdom. EVERYTHING was done by Jesus. It is finished. We are not saved nor kept by our works. Therefore, to spew this religious propaganda that one’s eternal soul hangs in the balance if they don’t repent from daily sin? This tells me, the reader, that you do not understand salvation. Please be willing to humble yourself and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His FINISHED work at the Cross. He calls you, saves you AND keeps you. Bless you in Jesus’ Name.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      It’s interesting that you are concerned enough about Natalie’s choice of words to write a letter about it. I’m curious what you are saying to God as you pray for her. Are you asking God to make her feel guilty and repent? It’s interesting that you are more concerned about her vocabulary than you are about women who are daily silenced by their husbands, or about husbands who use power to coerce and demean their wives.
      Jesus saw those who were suffering and offered healing. The only people he rebuked were the ones who thought they were in a position to criticize and judge other people.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      James tells us that we can hurt people with our speech (Jas. 3:1-12), but he doesn’t explicitly mention “swear words” and throughout scripture we see the authors use language that their contemporaries would consider “swear words.”

      Paul uses the term “scum” (Greek perikatharma) and “refuse” (Greek peripsema) (1 Cor.4:13). In the original Greek, these words were fairly profane.

      Jesus refers to human waste falling “into the latrine” (Mt. 15:17).

      Paul writes that his former life was “rubbish” (Greek skubalon) compared to the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 3:8). This Greek word literally means “dung” or “excrement.” Of this word, theologian J.I. Packer writes, “In secular Greek this depressing word means rubbish and muck of many kinds: excrement, rotten food, bits left at a meal as not worth eating, a rotting corpse. Nastiness and decay are the constant elements of its meaning; it is a coarse, ugly, violent word implying worthlessness, uselessness, and repulsiveness.”

      Paul states that he wishes his legalistic enemies would “mutilate themselves” or “cut themselves off” (Gal. 5:12), rather than try to circumcise his Gentile converts. He calls them the “false circumcision” (katatome), and he calls Christians the “true circumcision” (peritome). “Katatome” means to “cut through” the penis, whereas “peritome” means to “cut around.” This is a pretty vulgar way of describing his opponents.

      In 1 Sam. 20:30, Saul hurls a vile epithet at his son Jonathan. The NIV euphemistically translates it as ‘You son of a perverse and rebellious woman, but TEV’s ‘You bastard!’ and NJB’s ‘You son of a rebellious slut!’ come closer to what he was saying. The biblical authors didn’t “bleep out” this foul language from Saul—but most modern translators do.

      Isaiah 64:6 likens our self-righteous acts to “filthy rags.” The Hebrew word translated “filthy” (iddah) refers to menstruation. In other words, he refers to our righteousness as “your bloody menstrual cloths” or “your bloody tampons.”

      Malachi states that God will spread “refuse” (pereš) on the faces of the priests (Mal. 2:3). This word refers to the “contents of the stomach” or the “contents of the bowels” of sacrificial animals.[7]

      Many modern Christians have made swearing and foul language one of the cardinal sins of the Bible. However, when we read through the Bible, we do not see this emphasized. Our focus should not be to avoid certain words, it should be on loving others.

      Reply
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    I just love this so much. Thank you for helping me live my big, beautiful, and badass life!!
    Here’s to 2022 being even more badass.

    Reply

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