“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Really? We all know that’s a lie. The only one who buys that is the one dishing out the thoughtless words.
While driving in California, Larry noticed a car full of guys in another lane motioning for him to roll down his window. When he complied, an unpleasant looking man in the back seat called out “You’re ugly.” Larry said the words stung even though he didn’t know the guy, but looking at him Larry realized the guy must have been spewing out how he felt about himself.
Whose words hurt the most, someone you don’t know or someone you respect? The above sting quickly faded. If, however, someone Larry loved and respected had yelled those words, it would have left more than a temporary irritation. Words spit out in anger or hurt can’t be erased, especially when they come from someone close to us. Their memory continues to erode our peace and generate pain.
The Bible shows us how to be wise with our words, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:29-30).
The biblical word for “unwholesome” means of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless.¹
“Building up” is the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness.²
In other words we are to consider the impact of our words—not just crude ones, but all words. We might ask ourselves and others, “How do you feel about yourself after being with me? Do you feel torn down or built up? Are you hurt, embarrassed or ticked off, or are you encouraged, happy, and thankful? Are my words helping you see Christ more clearly or making it difficult for you to see Him at all?”
The Bible clearly reveals the dynamic power of our words, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 The Message). Avoiding off-colored words, lies and gossip only begins to touch the problem. Any words carelessly or intentionally expressed to hurt the listener cause real damage.
If you have been injured by words, allow God’s words in the Scripture to heal you. If you are using your tongue to harm others, stop right now and confess this to God. Surrender your tongue to His Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can tame the tongue and make it an instrument of healing and life. Then share these healing words with the one you injured, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me.” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can wound or heal me. You choose.
If you would like to receive these weekly blogs by email, simply email us
1 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for sapros (Strong’s 4550)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 28 Jul 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
2 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for oikodomē (Strong’s 3619)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 28 Jul 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.