This post originally appeared on MinistryMatters.com
I was always careless with words. Always looking for the quick joke at the expense of others, more concerned with if the joke was funny than if it was hurting someone.
After all, it’s just words. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” right?
One of the many childhood lies I believed. Because not only do words hurt, that hurt stays with you for a long time. Bones mend. Cuts heal. The words cut at the heart, mind and soul.
I think it would be more accurate to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will have such a lasting effect that I may have to go see a counselor for the rest of my life, so thanks for that.”
I remember having a conversation with an elderly gentleman who could still vividly recall how kids called him “Droopy Pants” in the 6th grade (nearly 6 decades ago) because his family couldn’t afford pants that fit him right. Words have great power and I don’t mean to get nerdy with you, but Uncle Ben was right: With great power comes great responsibility.
In the beginning, God brought forth our world with words. Throughout the Gospels, you see Jesus healing people by using only words. When he raised Lazarus from death, it was with words.
Perhaps emotional and spiritual healing took place for those seeking physical healing because Jesus actually spoke to them. Many of their ailments would cause them to be ostracized, and here was this man, this renowned teacher, the Messiah, speaking to them like an actual human being.
Words can build, restore, affirm, and heal. Words can give life.
But words can also destroy. Words can mar the image of God in a person.
Perhaps we often simply forget that our words have such great power. Or we do remember and therefore try to add a phrase to absolve us from the hurtfulness that accompanies our words (“Just saying” or “Bless his/her heart…”)
Let’s remember the teachings of our parents and teachers and think twice before we say anything. Scars of the heart and soul don’t mend and heal as quickly as broken bones.
May we be mindful of our words and use them not to belittle, deny and destroy but instead use them to uplift, build and give life.