I have been pondering a couple old adages the last few days: “Words are cheap” and “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”. These are both nothing but lies. Words are powerful. They are priceless as well as costly. With words, you can speak salvation into someone’s life, lift others up in love and speak words of hope. But at anytime, words can also tear apart a life, relationships will be severed and dreams can be shattered. I love the way Sara Bareilles puts it in her song “Brave” when she sings, “You can be amazing. You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug”.
That’s the power of words. So often, though, words are thrown around carelessly and without feeling there should be any repercussions. Some people just lash out at someone when they feel threatened or get angry. These words can be some of the most cutting and can settle into your very being if they are not acknowledged or forgiveness isn’t sought. Very little healing ever happens and trust is broken when these words are never talked about and it is pretended that nothing happened. A person who lives in a world with someone or a group of people who do this as their standard mode of operation will either become calloused to it as well as to the true affect words have or they will be wounded in, some part, through their life. Those words don’t leave quickly, or ever in some cases.
If those harsh words are never acknowledged, there will be a wall to some degree towards the person who said it. I truly believe from my own experiences and some of the experiences I’ve seen, whether there is a conscious thought of those words or not, the feelings surrounding the words are there, especially when the person who stated them is present. Trust will never fully be established. It’s a defense mechanism that many use and it can be crippling.
Proverbs 12:18 says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”. Sword thrusts! That is a definite picture and example of the harm words can do. Being stabbed by a sword brings injury, sometimes life threatening, and even death, but always scars. Those scars don’t go away. But the verse does also say that the tongue of the wise brings healing. Even if we say something that we shouldn’t, if we seek Godly wisdom, we will go back to the person to seek forgiveness and restitution, hopefully bringing healing, or at least the start of healing, to the person as well as to the relationship.
The Bible talks about the tongue over 90 times. That is a lot! It is that important. As Christians, we seek to follow Jesus’ leading and live our lives for Him. James 1:26 states: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless”. What we do with our words means so much. I would hate to think that I wounded someone so deeply by a careless word. I want to lift others up and encourage with my words. I also want to pray that I will be discerning in what I say. After all, a person is worth so much more than a quick release of anger or defensive comeback.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9