Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Do you remember this childhood taunt? I do. And, I remember chanting it to neighborhood kids when we were fighting. Later, we’d make up.
If you examine this childish saying, you’ll realize how untrue it is. Bones heal with the help of medical care and time. Hurtful words can leave unseen scars forever.
Words wield more power than we realize. They reveal what’s in our hearts. But, our tongues can be the most difficult thing to control. Hurtful words can leave us with regrets.
Pastor Tony Evans says, “A formidable power dwells within each of us. This power has changed the course of nations. It is capable of starting and ending wars. And it has made men rich and women famous. It has the means to commend or corrupt—to bless or to blame. It is the power of the tongue.”
When I rededicated my life to Jesus 16 years ago, I began to read and study scripture. Psalm 141:3—“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips”—became my go-to verse as a reminder to bite my tongue before uttering a word. I had a habit of speaking without thinking. As I have grown spiritually, it has become easier to control my tongue.
If we realized how much power our words hold, would we use them more wisely? What if the words you spoke during your lifetime were recorded and played back to you at the end of your life? Would you cringe, wishing you could retract every unkind thing you said?
An international speaker and author, Yehuda Berg reminds us of the power of what we say. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
With the advent of social media, the written word has become as powerful as the spoken. People react instead of thinking before typing words that can lead to dissension.
In a Huffington Post article by by Dr. Hyder Zahed, he writes, “Many people are compelled to give voice to any passing feeling, thought or impression they have. They randomly dump the contents of their mind without regard to the significance of what they are saying.”
In his book, “Love is a Way of Life,” author Gary Chapman uses a strong metaphor for words. They can either be “bullets or seeds.”
If our words are used as bullets, leaving an impression of superiority and condemnation, relationships fail. However, if we use our words as seeds of encouragement, support and good will, we build positive relationships that are life-affirming.
The tongue holds the power of life and death. Which will you choose?