We’ve all heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Most of us have had a teacher or parent repeat it to us after some bully decided to call us fat, ugly, or stupid. But here’s the thing about that little phrase…It’s stupid! When you think about it it’s likely one of the dumbest phrases we could possibly force our lips to speak and minds to think. I understand the purpose behind it – boosting self-esteem and all that garbage – but lets face the reality, you can repeat that stupid little slogan all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that words are powerful and can either bring massive damage or gentle healing.
The words that you and I speak matter. Even professional football teams are catching on to this. The Seattle Seahawks are one such team who are frowning upon things like speaking negatively, using cuss words, and they require that all team members say “thank-you” when finishing a conversation with a reporter. You can read more about that here.
Mass communication is at our fingertips. With a simple Tweet, Facebook post, video blog, or even a blog such as this we can speak words in powerful ways to billions of people in an instant. It seems that many have the knack for doing this without thinking twice about what it is that they are saying, and like a match touching dried sagebrush, a wildfire is started that can’t be contained.
This is how James speaks about the words we use. “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forrest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:5, 10)
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about our words. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). This Proverb tells us that some people speak and it’s like taking a sword to your gut, while others speak and it’s like a bandage that brings healing. Proverbs also says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil thoughts” (Proverbs 15:28). For many the problem is not the speaking in and of itself but simply the lack of thought that goes into the words. The wise person thinks before he or she speaks.
I know that I’ve personally done immense damage with my words and I have no doubt that you who are reading this have done the same. Many have been wrongly offended by the poisonous words we’ve spoken, God being the most offended party. My harsh words are worthy of God’s wrath, but in His grace He has poured out that wrath upon His Son, Jesus. Jesus was slandered at the cross in my place and perhaps the most powerful words he spoke were the words that he didn’t say at all. “Like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” Jesus heeded the wisdom of Proverbs, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
Jesus is our savior in light of the brutal words that our tongues have uttered and he is our hope for future words yet to be spoken.