“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” – The Christian Recorder of March 1862
I remember hearing this saying as a child and I am sure I used it several times myself. But as an adult, I started to think about the meaning and the implication of this saying. Reality is that words can hurt and can be painful. And once said they can not be unsaid.
This week there was a wildfire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee that destroyed many acres of forest, homes and businesses. There was a lot of damage done by this fire and the damage will take a long time to clean up from. While fire is something that can be so beautiful it can be so devastating also. I liken this to our words we say. Words can be used to encourage and build up others or ourselves. But they can also be used to tear down and hurt others. And if words are used to tear down and hurt others, the affects can be there for many years. Sometimes we replay those words ourselves and we still hear them many years later. In many cases healing can take many years. James talks about this very thing.
“A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” – James 3:3-10
When speaking to others, we should be speak with purpose. This purpose would be to speak in love to others and to point others to our Father.