14 April 2015
Sticks and Stones
Words kill, words give life;
they're either poison or fruit--you choose.-Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)
As kids, we used to say, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It was a lie we told to mask what was going on inside. But Proverbs tells the truth. Contrary to our childhood rhyme, words have the power to kill. We do not need guns or knives or sticks or stones to harm a person, our words will do just fine. Talk to any adolescent girl trying to navigate her way through the painful waters of junior high school as she experiences a slow death by ten thousand words from her peers.
"Why do even come here? No one likes you. Why don't you just kill yourself."
Each word a paper cut upon her soul. Each word draining her life, bit by bit. Many survive, though a close look will reveal battle scars, long calloused over to prevent any future pains. Some don't make it.
I wish I could say these death words were isolated, but they are not. Every day in every town in America in many homes, schools, jobs, and churches, people criticize, shame, and isolate others with their words. Some scream. Some use sarcasm. Some damn with faint praise. Some scoff. Some gossip. Some slander. The weapons are different, but the effects are similar. Words have the power to kill the spirit.
But words also have the power to give life. Words have the power to heal, to restore, to build up. For every cut inflicted upon the soul, we have in our power the opportunity to bind up those wounds, to speak life to another person.
Words are rarely neutral. They are poison, or they are fruit. They are death, or they are life. So the next time your son forgets to feed the dogs and you are about to respond, ask yourself, "am I speaking life to him?" The next time you want to add a snarky comment on something you see on Facebook, ask yourself "is my desire to build up and encourage or to make myself feel better by knocking that person down a peg?" The next time your spouse says something to you that makes your blood boil, ask yourself "in the midst of my hurt, how can my words bless the one whom I love?"
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.-Proverbs 15:4 (ESV)