As a child, there was a saying that I (and I believe many other children) would recite whenever someone said something that was meant to hurt or insult me. I would say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As I grew older and more experienced, I learnt that was far from the truth.
Yes, sticks and stones can indeed inflict wounds; but these wounds will heal and most times, they heal quickly with little or no reminder that an injury took place. Harmful words on the other hand, though they do not leave physical bruises behind, they have the power to leave emotional scars that if left unattended, can last for a lifetime. Words can create fear, make people believe something about themselves that is not true and can cause insecurities and hate.
Solomon wisely said that “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs chapter 18 verse 21) With our words, we can either choose to build up those around us or to tear them down, but we must be mindful that whichever we choose to do will not just impact others, but it will impact us too. This is because as Christians, how we treat others and what we say to them will impact how they relate back to us.
The power to destroy
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords…” (Proverbs chapter 12 verse 18)
When I think of the phrase ‘pierce like swords’, I visualize a sword, used in fighting, moving swiftly to impale the flesh of an enemy, in order to wound and eventually kill. When compared to words, this imagery provides a gruesome yet clear understanding of the damage our words can inflict on others if used rashly.
Words, as simply as they can be, have the ability to stifle passions and kill dreams. Words spoken carelessly have destroyed many relationships and have broken the spirit of many people. The good news however is that in the same way that words can destroy, words also have the power to rebuild and lay the foundation on which healing can begin to take place.
The power to restore and build
“The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain …” (Proverbs chapter 10 verse 11)
As Christians, sometimes we do not know how much power our words hold; but Scripture tells us that our words are “a life-giving fountain.” Picture a man wandering in the desert, lost and longing for a drink of water, and feeling as though he will die soon of dehydration. Suddenly, he hears the gentle sound of water and turns to find a spring, an oasis in the desert. Imagine his relief as he bends his knees to drink; he feels rejuvenated and begins to feel as though he can live again.
Our words can have the same effect on an emotionally weary person. When we use our words to encourage, uplift and remind others of the promises of God, we give them hope. In addition to that, our words aid in building confidence and self-esteem and can help to shift the negative perspective someone has about themselves.
Questions to ask yourself
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm chapter 131 verse 3)
While speaking, we must be mindful that although our intentions may be good, the time, space and even the tone in which we speak may cause our message to do more harm than good. We should ask ourselves:
1. Is my voice or tone matching what I am saying?
Sometimes when we try to encourage others, we may come off forceful or intimidating. Instead of them being encouraged, we may push them further away. We must ensure that our words are filled with love and grace and spoken in humility, especially when correcting. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs chapter 16 verse 24)
2. Is this the right time?
So often we feel the need to encourage those around us, especially when they are broken or hurting. For example, when someone loses a loved one, we may feel the need to encourage them, which is good, but our words at the time may cause more harm than good. We must know when our presence is needed more than our words. Also, take into consideration those who are around. Sometimes, you may need to take an individual aside and speak to them directly instead of in a crowd.
In a world where many people are using their words to belittle, discriminate and cause hurt, as Christian we have the opportunity to use our words to uplift, correct, love and build up. As we speak to others, let us remember that we are Christ’s Ambassadors here on earth and that the things we say must align with His Word. Our words carry weight so use yours today to lift someone up!
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa
Rose-Ann Durant is a young Christian from Kingston, Jamaica, who is currently living in the island of Barbados. She is an ardent reader who enjoys going to the beach, river and spending time outdoors.