“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Was this loving little rhyme shared with you by your parents or another authority figure when you were a child? Yeah? Me too. But over time, I’ve learned that it’s simply not true. Words hurt. A lot.
If you look back over world history – or even the history of your own life, almost all heartache, pain, strife, wars, etc. were first started with…Words! Likewise, as you reflect on your past, I bet there are many memories you can recall where others spoke positive words into your life. It’s easy to see that words have a profound effect on our lives. These words eventually led to outcomes in your life that were either positive (good feelings) or negative (hurt feelings).
You have the power to speak life into those that are around you, but you also have the power to speak death and destruction into them. Scripture says that while the “tongue is a small part of the body” (James 3:5), it “has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). That’s incredible if you think about it. One of the smallest parts of our body has this massive power to bring either love, healing, and affirmation or hatred, poison, and death. The choice is up to us…and it has major consequences.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
One of Many Times I’ve Blown It…
Recently, I was having a really bad day. And at the end of this long disastrous day, my teenage daughter made a request of me that just didn’t sit right – it hit a nerve. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and sadly I unleashed my entire days’ worth of hurt and frustration on her. I could quickly see that I crushed her spirit, which was certainly not my intention. After taking some time to cool off, I asked her if she would ride with me to grab a coffee so that we could talk and clear the air. I humbled myself and apologized to her. And while she did extend her forgiveness and we made things right between us, I know there are still consequences. I spoke words that can never be “unspoken” and sadly she heard words that will most likely never be “unheard”. Words matter. A lot.
Choose to Bring Life!
So the question begs, how can we use our words to bring life and not death? I wish I could give you a magical formula, but I can’t. Have you ever noticed how the so-called magical formulas never work anyway? But what I can offer, are some truths I’ve gained through my own struggles of taming the tongue as well as those of others.
- Daily Self Awareness: Take time to check in with yourself throughout the day. This one takes some discipline on your part. It’s okay to feel the emotions of anger and hurt, but realize when you are in this state and choose your words and conversations very carefully. Had I done this with my daughter, I might have avoided the pain I caused her.
- Guard Your Heart: Scripture tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). This means that all of the words flowing out of your mouth – both beautiful and ugly – are based on the condition of your heart.
- Choose Love: Love truly does conquer all. Often times those we hurt the most are also those we love the most. In anger, it’s easy to lash out against our spouse and attack their weak spots. The same holds true with relationships with our friends, family, work, and even compete strangers. Choosing love over hate is often difficult, but it produces beautiful consequences in both the giver and receiver.
- Surround Yourself with Loving People: As much as possible, fill your life with loving people that truly have your best interest at heart. We all know people that suck the air right out of the room when they enter due to their negativity. If it’s possible, avoid toxic people. And if it’s not possible, refer to number 3 above. J
- Admit When You Have Blown It: We are human and at times our emotions will get the best of us regardless of how hard we try for that not to happen. So when you blow it, admit it and seek forgiveness. Speaking words of humility can go a long way to restoring a relationship and easing the pain.
So while sticks and stones may break our bones, words also have the ability to both break the bones and crush the spirit. Because words matter. A lot.