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Sticks and Stones  

 

Sometimes pithy, catchy sayings can communicate truth in ways that latch on to our minds and stay with us forever, or so it seems. Then again, some of these catchy sayings communicate anything but truth and they mislead us in ways that can be very unhelpful.   Take, for example, this saying:  

 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names (words) will never hurt me".  

 

Wrong!!   The truth is that words and names that are derogatory, critical and destructive and are spoken into the lives of others can be very powerful and cause enormous psychological and relational damage.   I've heard some very negative words spoken into the lives of some people and there is no doubt that they have acted almost like curses. Ponder the following  

 

"You will never amount to anything worthwhile"

 "Why can't you be as good as your brother?"

 "You are so stupid".

"I wish you had been born a boy. We never wanted a girl".

"The truth is that I have never loved you. Nobody does".  

 

The way we speak about each other and to each other is a major factor in the way that people are shaped in their own eyes, let alone in the eyes of others. Our tongues can cut and wound others very deeply just as their criticism of us can negatively impact us.   But the good news is that the opposite is also true. While negative speech can damage and even destroy us, positive words of affirmation and encouragement have a wonderful healing and restorative effect in our lives.  

 

To see a parent affirm and reassure a child who is questioning his or her worth to themselves or others brings such joy to my heart.   To hear the coach (and other team members) cheer on one of their team who just missed the goal that could have given them the victory brings delight to my heart.  

 

Every day brings us opportunities to speak words that will build up the lives of others or tear them down. Very few of us will ever get in a conflict where we have to use sticks and stones to defend our very lives.   But I will have opportunities this very day to use words that will build others up or tear them down. Words that affirm them or disempower them. Words that wound deeply or heal deeply.  

 

It's no wonder, then, that James in his New Testament letter cautions us about the wise use of the tongue  

 

James 3:3-6 NLT   We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  

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