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Sticks and Stones

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Yes, words really can hurt us. Are we doing our best to choose our words in a Christian manner?


Give your neighbor a break. Choose kind words.

Anyone who watches the news these days, or observes the world scene around us, has to be struck by the lack of civility that has become so common. We see this in news reporting and in the news events themselves. We see it in daily interactions between people across all walks of life. There is a strident tone, a hard edge in many—if not most—exchanges that involve differences of opinion. Whether it is on the floor of Congress, in the chambers of Parliament, on the streets of our cities—from bedroom to board room, in countries large and small—contention seems to be the spirit of the times.

Imputing of motives, name-calling and hurling insults seem to be the order of the day. Shockingly, many of the news programs cultivate that coarse approach in their presentation or coverage of the news. Raised voices, stepping on each others' lines and interrupting the person who is speaking is a standard format being employed by many if not most "news" outlets on television. I can only assume that the networks have taken surveys revealing that their viewers want this kind of raucous presentation of the news.

Our Angry World

Unsurprisingly, this attitude has hit the streets. We often read of "road rage," triggered by some minor incident, resulting in a fight or even a shooting. Workplace violence often starts with harsh words between fellow workers or between a worker and a supervisor or manager. My wife recently had an unpleasant experience at a supermarket. While standing in a long line of folks waiting to check out, a woman with a few items stepped in front of the line. With a glaring look, she exclaimed in a loud voice to those patiently waiting their turn, "You got a problem with this?" It was a tense and stressful moment, but the rude shopper's actions totally intimidated the other customers. No one spoke up, and the incident passed without further confrontation.

What we say and how we say it does have an impact, either positively or negatively, on others. It may not surprise you to know that your Bible has a lot to say on this important subject. We read: "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health" (Proverbs 12:18).  Yes, words can cause deep wounds, so we should be very careful how we use them. A thoughtless taunt or a careless barb can be painful, and may cause irreparable damage to a relationship.

The book of Proverbs gives further priceless instruction on this important subject. It is written: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). If we want to avoid stirring up anger and resentment in others, we should carefully consider the tone and inflection of our voice. Often it is not what we say but how we say it that causes friction and animosity with others. When we speak with our spouse, our children, our fellow workers and those who serve us in the marketplace, we should consider the impact of our words. Do we build others up, or do we tear them down?

Try a Little Kindness

To paraphrase the "Golden Rule" given by Jesus Christ in Luke 6:31, "And just as you want others to speak to you, you also speak to them likewise."

When you were a child, you probably heard the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." That was a lie. Words can hurt. How we use them can have a great impact on our life and the lives of those around us. 

Once again, the book of Proverbs puts it in perspective with these lines, "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). Which will you choose, "sticks and stones" or "sweetness to the soul and health to the bones"?

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