Growing up as children we always heard the saying
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
It’s interesting to me that we said those words many times, believing those harsh, hurtful things people said wouldn’t make a difference 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road. Well I beg to differ, I believe there is tremendous power in the words we say to one another and I see the effects of it on a daily basis.
For those reading that don’t know, I have a very interesting, challenging, and rewarding job. I work at the county jail completing mental health assessments on inmates as they are booked into the jail. There are many questions on the assessment I complete but one of the sections we spend a lot of time on, is the history of abuse they endured growing up.
As you can image, most of the inmates I work with have suffered severe and traumatic abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse. I hear horrible stories of things that happened to my clients when they were younger and I’ve noticed a theme while I’ve been working at the jail. No matter what level of abuse they’ve experienced, they always, ALWAYS remember the verbal abuse. The words we say are powerful, they can hurt us or build us up. Scripture tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). The harmful things people say stick with us forever, we believe them to be true and we have a difficult time erasing it from our minds.
I know sometimes we don’t intentionally say things that hurt people but it is important to remember that even our tone of voice makes a difference. I recently had a disagreement with someone and I thought to myself “I can’t apologize for how you reacted to what I said.” While I believe a small part of that to be accurate I realize now that it doesn’t matter if I delivered it well or if I didn’t intend to hurt them, if they received it in a way that hurt I still need to seek forgiveness for that.
The bible tells us “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:23-24). There is power in the things we say and the way we deliver the things we say, may our words always be encouraging, uplifting, sweet, kind and build each other up. May we live out what Ephesians 4:29 says “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.”
I hope we continue to remind ourselves of the importance of the words we speak and don’t forget the consequences.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence (Proverbs 10:11)
With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered (Proverbs 11:9).
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).