Friday, November 18, 2016

Words Will Never Hurt Me

You know it, right? "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Of course, in our world appalled at the realization that bullying takes place with our poor 8-year-olds online, we're no longer sure of that. The CDC has a report on the relationship between bullying and suicide, where the bullying in view is often mostly just words. BullyingStatistics.org reports that bullying is the third leading cause of suicide in young people. In October an 11-year-old cancer survivor killed herself because she was picked on at school. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can kill.

I know people. I know someone who will not wear white socks because someone somewhere told them, "You know, white socks make you look stupid." They don't remember who, but they won't wear them. I know someone who used to sing beautifully but won't anymore because someone told them, "You know, your voice isn't that good." One person I know played the piano, but when someone complained, "Do you have to make that noise?", they stopped playing entirely. One friend suffers internally to this day because when he was in college some girl told him, "No one wants to hear about your problems", so he doesn't tell anyone.

This stuff doesn't rise to the level of "bullying". We wouldn't think of those people as bullies. Maybe rude. Maybe even right. But not bullies. And I'm absolutely certain that not one of them thought their words went any farther than the moment, if that. None of them thought they'd have a lifelong impact on their hearers. But Jesus said, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man ... The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." (Matt 15:11,18) It is not true that words don't hurt. Sometimes the damage is much worse than broken bones.

James wrote, "The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." (James 3:6) He said, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." (James 3:2) He tells us, "No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." (James 3:8-10) In the same way, Paul wrote, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29) Jesus said, "I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." (Matt 12:36)

We've been told that words don't hurt. I don't think there's a person alive who actually believes that, either when they use words in an attack or when they hear it. We don't insult people because we don't think it will hurt, and those who have been on the receiving end don't agree that it doesn't hurt. Our words can have long-lasting, even lifetime effects. We are Christians. We ought to know better.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psa 19:14)

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