(Adapted from The Pastor Is In)
We all know how the old “sticks and stones” tune goes. It sounded good to sing it when another kid called you a name. It helped you put on a strong face when you were being teased or insulted. But the truth of the matter is that words do hurt.
They can hurt a lot.
Words can bruise feelings and break hearts.
The wrong word at the wrong time can utterly humiliate a person.
One off-the-cuff remark can start a firm friendship on a slow decline toward disintegration, or even destroy it instantaneously.
Families have been fractured by a simple sentence.
A few spiteful words from a jealous naysayer can kill inspiration, smother enthusiasm, and demolish dreams.
Words can be weapons, and we must be careful how we wield them.
Sometimes, the pain of the sticks and stones would be preferable to the damage done by a hurtful word! Many of us don’t even realize the negative impact that some of our words have on others, especially our family and friends. Start watching your words more closely from now on, particularly in the context of your intimate relationships.
Unfortunately, we get comfortable with those closest to us, and when we start to get comfortable, we stop being careful. It gets easy to take out our daily angers and annoyances on our spouses and children through the words that we speak. We start to take for granted that they’re not going anywhere, that they’ll just be content to take whatever abuse we dish out.
- Do you habitually attach a “yeah, but” to every good suggestion that’s made?
- Do you regularly use sarcastic, snippy, or snide responses?
- Do you point out people’s flaws and failings even when it’s not necessary or constructive to do so?
- Do you compare your spouse or child or friend unfavorably to other people?
- Do you hurl insults when you’re angry or resort to name-calling when you’re frustrated?
- Do you constantly bring up past transgressions and make others repeatedly relive their failures?
If you find that you’re often guilty of throwing some of these verbal stones, then your words may be kindling a slow-burning fire in your friend or family member’s spirit. That fire, stoked up by the words you speak, may eventually consume your loved one from within, and it may even begin the blaze that burns down the relationship you’ve built.
Ephesians 4:29 tells us not to let anything corrupt or unwholesome come out of our mouths. The word that’s used to describe our hurtful speech in that verse literally means rotten or putrefied. When we speak to others in discouraging or degrading ways, it’s like feeding someone spoiled milk or rancid meat. There’s no way they can’t get sick!
The only words that should make it past the filter of your mind to the faucet of your mouth are the ones that give life.
Pray for ears to start hearing the true tone and tenor of your words, ears to hear what others hear when they listen to you talk. Study your speech more closely from now on and see whether what you say serves to build others up or burn them down. And humbly ask forgiveness if you find hurtful words on your lips.
Jesus reminds us that a problem with your speech is really a problem with your spirit (Luke 6:45). Start to cultivate a pure heart from which pure words will flow.