When I was a kid—thin-skinned and therefore (at least in my mind) always getting picked on—my mom taught me a little ditty she hoped would help me deal with the drama: “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can’t even touch them.”
I have since learned that yes, words can’t break your bones—but they can break your spirit. They can’t touch your body, but they can touch your heart. “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs,” said British politician Pearl Strachan Hurd. Such is the power of words. They can harm or heal, uplift or crush, help or hinder.
And the thing about words is that you can never take them back. They may be patched over, hidden or forgotten, but they will always leave some mark. I remember when The Hubby was still The Boyfriend. We had a bad breakup; he said some of the meanest things that had me sobbing for hours. Of course, we’ve grown up since then and decided we couldn’t live without each other and I eventually married him. But sometimes, when those words cross my mind—not like I purposely dredge them up—there’s still this little pinch in my heart. I’ve forgiven him, and I don’t hold it against him, but what he said still affects the way I sometimes feel about myself.
Also, don’t you feel that some people are a chore to be around? Usually, these are the people who keep complaining, worrying or who never have anything positive to say. Sometimes they are funny, I have to admit. Their sarcasm can be entertaining, but it does wear you down eventually. Same goes for those who constantly gossip (though I confess to indulging in this too) or backstab others. Somehow, talking to them can bring you down.
I’ve learned that whatever I am holding on to affects the things that I say and the way that I say it. When I feel optimistic and happy, so are the words I speak. When I’m stressed or in a funk, my words can really hurt (I regret this the most with my daughters; I can only pray that the mark my hurtful words leave won’t be too severe).
It reminds me of that verse from Matthew 12:34, “…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” You’ll know what you have in your heart and mind by what you say. So the tricky part is—what do you fill your heart with? Sure you can edit your speech, but your unspoken words still reflect what you truly believe.
I constantly need to pray that my words will be as author Stormie Omartian puts it, “words that bring life”. I pray that the overflow of my heart will be good, pure, righteous and noble things; things that are of God. I pray that my words will uplift, encourage, comfort, heal, build up and bring truth.
Will you pray with me on this?
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than him. – Proverbs 29:20