Monday, May 13, 2013

Sticks and Stones

We've all heard the old adage, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me." I'm willing to bet that you heard it either from your mom or from a teacher the first time another child said something mean to you and hurt your feelings.

Sadly, the truth of the matter is that this old saying just ain't true. Words do hurt and, if repeated again and again, over time they can cripple us.

Before the "sticks and stones saying", God inspired Paul and others to write a very different message. 

Ephesians 4:29
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
And Jesus said in the book of Matthew 15:10-11
"And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Recently I was contacted by a friend. She had just read something I had written and the words brought back a flood of memories for her. These were painful memories of being shamed and ridiculed, told that she was "stupid" and "bad". These words were spoken to her when she was just a little girl, but here she was, at the age of 40, still crying about them. Reliving the pain of how those words did indeed "break her bones" by profoundly breaking her spirit. A recent Christian song also shares how significant spoken words can affect our lives. I've shared the song below.

Thankfully, God's love can heal the pain we receive from others words. And, as the song describes, we can use words of love to lift people instead of hurting them. In my friend's message I learned that God is slowly healing her pain. Over time and through developing a loving relationship with Him, reading His word, and allowing Him to comfort and nurture her, she continues to heal. But it is a long and hard process that she wouldn't wish on anyone.

She also shared with me that because of her experiences she is VERY, VERY careful about the words she speaks to others. To her children, she is a mother who relishes in praising them. And to friends, she is the one who always has the kind word and the encouragement that we all need to hear. God has taught her the importance of words and she is following His lead in order to heal her own heart and in order to make sure others don't have to suffer through her same experiences.

Reading her words was eye-opening to me. Her hurt and pain are real. They are a tangible reminder for me to stop and think before speaking. They also reminded me that, for the most part, children's emotions and feelings are the same. Our children with life challenges are just like other children. Although they may look or act a little bit differently (or may not!), they experience emotions, pain, and joy just like anyone else does. Some may not always understand sarcasm or wit, but some may understand it just fine. Some may not read social cues or understand lofty vocabulary. But some may understand and read these situations perfectly. The truth is, it doesn't matter what we perceive that they understand. The way we treat them should not differ from the way we should treat anyone else. Although they may be different on some levels, like all of us, they have the same capacity to feel hurt, shame and fear.
Therefore, our words should always uplift, and never condemn, ridicule or shame. Yes, sometimes children need discipline, ALL children. Yes, sometimes they need redirection. And sometimes they need punishment. But the words we use when we take these actions should always come from love and should be used to teach, not tear down.

We need to teach our children this lesson too. Children are often the cruelest perpetrators. Why, I'm not sure. Have they not been taught compassion or empathy? Are they modeling behavior they have seen in others? Or are they simply in need of being educated? Probably all of the above. And as parents, it's our job to make sure we do teach them compassion and truth, modeling the behavior that Christ modeled for us.

Words CAN break our bones by breaking our hearts and our spirits. They can break our lives if we replay them in our heads like a broken record. Let your words make someone's day, not break someone's heart. Be that unexpected gift and blessing to others, sharing God's love for ALL the little children (and big children) of the world!

I will leave you with some of the many, many Bible verses that share this message of using our words wisely and as  life-affirming for others.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.
Matthew 12:36

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Proverbs 16:24

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Proverbs 13:3

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 29:20

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11


  1. Christi,
    Your article is spot-on! God SPOKE the world into being; in the book of John, Jesus is referred to as "The Word"; Jesus taught that if we SPEAK to the mountain and command it to be thrown into the sea, it will be done; Jesus SPOKE a curse over the fig tree and it withered...and on and on it goes. We are each of us created in God's image, and every time we speak, power is released: power to build up or power to tear down.
    Several years ago God started me on a journey of revelation concerning the things I was speaking - remember, power is released every time we speak. He told me, "Angie, if you wouldn't pray it, don't even say it." I was in the habit of praying one thing, but then outside of my prayer life I felt free to say whatever I wanted about the sitation. God showed me that, as far as he's concerned, He doesn't stop listening when we finish praying - He listens to EVERY word that we speak, and EVERY word carries weight, whether they are offered up in prayer or not.
    I think if we all were to treat EVERY word we speak as a prayer, there would be less of a tendency to say thoughtless things.
    Be blessed, my dear friend, and keep fighting the good fight :)

  2. Thanks Angie! YOu are so right about your revelation and I need to remember that too. I appreciate you sharing! Love you!