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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Speak or not to Speak?

"Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you."

How many times did you hear that as a kid? I heard it plenty, said it plenty. And what's more is that many of us teach that little ryhme to our children to avoid them from being affected by the sometimes hurtful things their peers can say.

Is it true though?....

I would say that words can hurt, very much. If anyone has any doubts just look through the yellow pages (do people still do that?) or a quick google search with your zip code and the endless list of psychiatrists and psychologists will help give us an answer. Words wound others and they can cause deep wounds that sometimes take a lifetime to heal, if ever. That is, if we trust in man to help us heal...with God there is the promise of total healing...but that is for another post :) Today, I'd like to just talk about what God tells us about the words we choose to communicate to others.

Encouraging and compassionate words can build others up with. Hastily spoken words said in moments of emotion can disintegrate self-esteems, relationships and our hopes in communicating God's love to others if we aren't careful.

How important are the words we say? Very important. The Bible is full of verses warning us to choose our words carefully and stressing the importance that sometimes less is more. Let's remind ourselves, through His Word, of how God expects His children to approach one another in speech and God's view of speech itself.

Proverbs 10:19  When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 11:12  He who belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remanins silent.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful in building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

2 Timothy 2:16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

James 3:6-10 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger.

The more we grow in Christ the more natural it will become to respond, even in moments where we are beginning to feel groundless, with words of love and compassion. God wants us to choose our words with care. If we are to grow in our walk and in our faith we have to learn when to speak and when not to. This is a very difficult thing (something I am far from mastering myself!), especially in this world where it seems like we can't go through a day without someone saying something that is frustrating or where an incident arises that threatens to steal our peace. When we allow the actions or words of others to steal our peace it is easy to respond in a similiar fashion. But God calls us not to! This is something I think that is worthy to pray for because certainly the words we express to others effect our relationships with them and the way we present ourselves to the world as followers of Christ.

So, let's pray :)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for the hurtful words that sometimes come out of our mouths that cause others to suffer. Reveal to us those that we have wounded so that we can apologize, with sincerity and love, for the hurt we have caused. Help us to let go of pride, let go of our own hurt, our own wounds and help us surrender completely to you so that we may be washed in the light of your love. May our lives be living testaments to your unending and free gift of mercy. We thank you unceasingly for this gift of mercy you show mankind for without it we'd be lostand have no hope! Help change us, through your love and compassion, through your Spirit working in our hearts, so that we may, with every passing day, be more and more like Jesus. We praise you, we honor you, we worship you.       
In Jesus' holy name, Amen.


  1. Eph 4:29 really ministered to me this morning. I want to let my words be few - and meaningful.

  2. Thank You Jessica. I pray the Lord will continue to help us tame our tongues so we can speak words that produce healing than hurt.

    This is an awesome posting. Please keep it up. The Lord bless you and yours.

    Joshua Caleb

  3. I would rather get into a fist fight than one of words. The old rhyme is definitely false.

  4. Words hurt so much...even coming from physical and sexual abuse the words that still hurt so much more..Thank you for this post and the beautiful prayer...I saved it so I can also use it every day.. Thank you :)

  5. Oh yes our words can hurt. We must think about what we say. I keep thinking the old saying, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. I do not want my words to hurt someone or cause them to stumble. Thank you for your post and beautiful prayer.

  6. Thank you everyone for your kind and encouraging comments. It seems like we all agree that words can do a lot more damage than being wounded physically be another.

    Bonnie, your story is one of much pain and trial and a testament to the destructive power of words, that they have been what has caused you even more wounds than the physical/sexual abuse that you've had to endure. I will continue to pray spiritual and emotional healing over you. I can't imagine going through what you've been though. So glad you liked the prayer :)

    Jennifer..I was thinking after I had posted this article about that old saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"..I think that is a lot more constructive to teach our children than the ridiculous rhyme about sticks and stones! Justin, you are so right, that just simply isn't true. I guess it's said to make children feel brave or stronger, to be able to shrug off the words that are thrown at them by peers and others. At the same time what does it teach them about the words they say? That they don't have much impact? That verbally assaulting another doesn't carry as much weight and consequence of physically assaulting someone? I just think it's the wrong message to send..I definitely won't be teaching it to my kids!

    Lisa, so glad you liked the verse from Esphesians..I continually have to remind myself of that verse and go over and read it when I feel like I have to get into a conversation that might not bring out the best of me with someone. I want to give honor and glory to God, I want to please Him, not do otherwise. It's a great verse to memorize! I wish I was better at memorizing, something I need to work on!

    Thanks so much Caleb, I love your blog too! :)

    Love and light to you all,

  7. I have another verse to share - not that I disagree with anything that's been said (in fact I heartily agree!). I too have suffered the wounds of careless words. Taming the tongue is a struggle for me, because I am a verbal person and a verbal processor (I suppose this lengthy comment is evidence of that!).

    But I don't think hurtful/painful words are necessarily the same as unwholesome, godless, harsh, corrupt, or belittling words. As your Ephesians quote suggests, the main point is to build up others, and this can encompass feel-good words as well as difficult words. Earlier in that chapter we find that the key is that whatever words we speak are truthful words, spoken in love (Eph 4:15).

    I was thinking of a situation in which I had feelings of deep resentment about a person but always pretended to be nice to her whenever we crossed paths. I suppose you could say I was following the letter, but not the spirit, of the Law. Then I came across the following verse in Proverbs 24:26:

    An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

    I realised that my nice words were neither helpful nor honest. They weren't hurtful, but they were shallow. Soon after, I confessed to her my unkind thoughts and my dishonesty and asked for her forgiveness. To be sure, in the moment things were awkward, probably hurtful, and definitely precarious. But in the end, those difficult words opened the door to a deep friendship that has now continued for over 15 years. I believe we'd both say it was worth it!

    I think the difference was that I spoke those difficult words out of love and a desire for honesty, integrity, and reconciliation, and God blessed it. Love can be costly in that way at times. It won't always feel good, but there are times(admittedly fewer than we'd like to think!) when our love will dictate that we speak (or receive) difficult words. Just so long as it's LOVE, mind you, not all the other "fleshy" motives that can cloud our judgment.

    I know that's a very different type of situation than the ones you were writing about, but I thought it was worth adding to the mix. :-)

    (Sorry this turned out so long!)

  8. Hi Becky,

    Thank you so much for your comment :) Never worry about the length! I love dialogue and to hear others thoughts and I know those visiting this blog do too!

    I agree, sometimes we do have to use language as also a means of expressing our feelings to others in order to be honest to them, and sometimes it's not always necessarily an encouraging thing we are doing, but it can be an eye opening thing. I think it's important for our brothers and sisters in Christ to be honest with one another, illuminating gently and honestly, but honestly nonetheless, areas that need to be worked on, or our own natural emotional responses to someone so they know the effect they have on us.

    I think it all comes to the intentions of the heart. If our heart has the intentions of love and compassion and seeks to be honest, even though hard words have to be said, even words, perhaps, that point towards the need for accountability that a friend might need to hear (perhaps a friend battling with addiction that needs someone, anyone to just be honest and real about the situation), then I think those words can bear fruit.

    As you mentioned, kind flowery words bear no weight nor fruit if they are empty, so we shouldn't be phony about the words we choose even if they are nice ones. It all comes down to our intentions I believe when it comes to the speech we use. We could use stern words to help build someone up and we could use carelessly stern words to help deteriorate someone's self esteem callously. Prayer seems to be a good avenue I've taken before approaching someone that has helped guide me, and set my heart right, in the words I say.

    Many blessings :) It's always great to hear from you.

  9. I read somewhere once that words are like a nail pounded into a fence. It is possible to remove the nail, but the mark will always remain in the wood.