Our words are powerful. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” couldn’t be further from the truth in my mind. Despite our ability to forgive and forget, a well-timed hateful string of words can emotionally damage a person for years to come.
Our Daily Bread gives us welcome reminder of the pain that our tongues can cause:
The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.
Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).
How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?
Is there anything you’ve said recently that you feel convicted about? How do you avoid damaging speech?