Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me …. we’ve all heard that childhood rhyme; something our parents taught us so we would be strong when faced with hurtful words said by others. But we all know that it isn’t true. Words can be a sharp sword intended to inflict harm. Words hurt. Words cut, sometimes very deeply. Sometimes words leave an ugly scar – sometimes the wound doesn’t heal. Sometimes words hurt more than broken bones, because words can break a heart.
I’ve been watching the current events unfold and have seen the despair, anger, frustration and fear in our society. I’ve been surprised by how people are expressing the passion for their belief or understanding. I’ve been saddened by the words and actions of those who profess Christ. I’ve been shocked by the selfishness and hatred of the heart that is being exposed.
I’m ashamed to say that I have caused hurt with my words more than once in my lifetime. I also bear the scars from words that have cut me. The tongue can be a terribly powerful weapon; James 3:8 describes it as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Jesus taught that our tongues speak what is in our hearts. (Matthew 12:32-37)
It’s not wrong to have an opinion that differs from others, nor is it wrong to share that opinion. It’s how we communicate that is often wrong. We, as a society, have largely lost the ability to have conversation, discussion or debate in a civilized manner. We have lost the ability to admit we were wrong in our assumptions. We have lost the ability to agree that we disagree without anger and hatred. We have become incapable of fully listening to the opinion of others so we understand their point of view before hardening our stand against them. We have forgotten that it is these very differences and the resulting conversations and debates that have led to improvements in our society.
Words DO hurt. Words DO harm. Words DO leave scars. And when it is a professing Christian leaving the scars on those around him, the message to the world is not one of love.
Proverbs 16:23-24 comes to mind as I think about this. “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Think before you speak so that your words are helpful, and deliver your message kindly so those listening are not injured by your words.
Heavenly Father, show us the condition of our hearts, and give us the grace to recognize when our words have become swords of anger rather than a healing balm. Teach us to speak kindly and with love so that the world will know we are yours. In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.
“May these words of my mouth and this mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14.