ONE OF THE BIGGEST LIES we are ever told:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
but names will never hurt me
Our culture does not like long silences. We live in a world of words. And what happens with a slip of a tongue, a thoughtless remark, a malicious comment? Fractured relationships, failed businesses, regret. All because of – what? The power of words.
We talk all the time. To each other and yes, to ourselves, even if not out loud. We use words to convince, to persuade, to entertain. A lot of attention is given to those who talk a lot, and those who use words as part of their profession. Words can hold glamour, humour, and exercise extraordinary power. Words are dangerous.
But words are so easy to use, aren’t they? And how often do people really think before they speak? How much damage can people do with a simple thoughtless comment? Sometimes these words are used in childhood. One condemning sentence said by one person at one particular point in our lives can change our attitude forever. How easy it is to hear the echo of those words, bouncing down over the years, ready to sneak up on us when we are weary or anxious, or reminded of that hurtful remark.
James (in the bible) knew about the power of the tongue. If you can control that, the rest of it is easy in comparison. The tongue is the power centre of our bodies, it is the most inflammatory possession we have, full of potential for both bad and good. Reckless speech damages lives.
Jesus said: out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
How we talk reveals things about our character. Are we bitter? Then our words will be harsh. Are we angry? Then our words will be irritable. Are we filled with hurt that we won’t admit to? Then our words will be defensive. Are we peaceful? Then our words will be words of peace.
So many parts of the bible, particularly in Proverbs, but also in the New Testament letters, talk about keeping watch over our lips – to think about what we say, so that recklessness and thoughtlessness are guarded against. We are told to take responsibility for what we say. We are told to speak with gentleness. We are told to season our conversation with salt. We are to love with our words.
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but names – words – will never hurt me.
Sometimes this is true. Sometimes we are so encouraged by others, or sure of the love we have been shown, that one little jibe is easily deflected. But often destructive words do just that – destroy. Destroy peace, destroy joy, destroy security.
Many harmful sentences contain the following words:
‘You’re always…You’re never…You’re too…You’re just not…’
Fill in the blanks. These words can be completely crushing, especially in the context of an argument. Always and never – are nearly always false, and practically never true. It’s good to avoid these words in that kind of context. They are also intrinsic to rumour and gossip. She’s always like that. He never does this. And yet we are called not to judge. We cannot see the stones in other people’s shoes. We’re all guilty of something – when it comes to words.
But the tongue, for all its potential destructive power, can be a great healer.
Proverbs 15 verse 4 says: The tongue that brings healing gives life.
There is power for good in our words. If we use words to heal, not harm, we can repair damaged lives, and show God’s love to those who are wounded in spirit and in mind.
I think I’ve posted this before, at least I think so – but I’ll repeat it here:
Teach me how to speak Lord – teach me how to love with my words
that I may soothe, not scratch; heal, not scar
teach me how to be silent, Lord
when it can be so easy to speak carelessly ,or impatiently
may I be wise, may I think first
Teach me to speak for you Lord – may I be so attuned to your heart cry
that my love for you spills over, and your love through my words
and when I am broken down by the words of others
Lord, be my healer. For you can mend all things.