“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” This was the playground chant I learned in early childhood to ward off any potential bullies. The reality is that dealing with bullies is not quite that simple. And, the truth is names, and more generally, words, really do hurt and will often continue to bring pain a lot longer than physical wounds do. Even scars from an actual cut can eventually fade, but not necessarily so with damage created by harsh words.
In the Bible, James 3:3-8 paints a vivid picture of the destructive power of words.
“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.“
This passage of Scripture has been on my mind lately as The Lord has been revealing to me how much I need to grow in this area, especially with respect to speaking to my children. Just this morning, I snapped at my daughter without warning, scolding her for playing with my food. It was one of those “Mommy Jekyll and Hyde” moments. Her sad, puppy dog face did nothing to soften me. I know I could’ve said it in a different way, and the words I chose deeply hurt her. The sad thing is that it was over a pancake (which I probably should not have been eating)!
The Lord began to convict my heart. My conscience was not clear as God brought back to my mind the passage in James about the tongue. Moreover, I just demonstrated by my actions the following verses, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10). Humbled, I asked my daughter for forgiveness, and all is well again.
But, I know it’s an enemy I will likely face again. At times, “defeated” seems like the fitting description for how I feel, but I know Jesus has already won the victory and conquered my greatest enemy, sin and death. So, take courage, my friends, if you struggle with this as I do. Let us go to the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, which will enable us to stand firm in the battles ahead.
(Photo credit: Ivy Dawned)