Sticks and Stones: The Wisdom of Minding Your Mouth

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but do we really believe names can’t hurt us? Our words, the things we say, can affect our lives in ways we can never imagine. Regardless of what the old adage claims, broken bones, though they be painful, eventually heal. But, careless or misplaced words, whether single syllabled or compound, are another story altogether. They can leave deep and life-long wounds, and as we are reminded in James 3:5-6 (MSG), “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.” Once the [word] genie is out, there’s no going back, you can’t recall it like a bad tweet, once it hits the air, the damage is done. Words are powerful tools that can open doors or lock them, unite nations or divide them, build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. “By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell,” James continues.

Minding your mouth is a pretty big thing, when it comes to living a wisdom-filled life. In fact, shooting off our mouths is one of the biggest failings of humanity. We’re in love with idle talk and especially our own opinions. We prattle on and on without much thought about what we say, as if our words have no real meaning, and are only background noise that is easily dismissed.  We fail to see that the freeness with which we spew our every random thought, with which we are so righteous about having the “right” to say, is not always right. Instead, we throw it out there without consideration, getting so caught up in our “right to free speech” that we forget our words are alive, they have impact, force.

The unguarded tongue is more dangerous than any suicide bomber could ever be. While he may cause us physical pain, loss and suffering, an explosion of words can do far worse damage, it can break our spirit, can set us on a downward spiral of degradation and despair that only God can help and heal. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3, and rightly so, since it’s what we say that saves or convicts us, that matters most. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

~SLM

Proverbs the Handbook of Life Part V: Words Count

When I was a kid, whenever someone was mean we’d say “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  It’s a glib little saying, meant to help us through a difficult situation by reminding us that what others say of us can only define us when we allow it to, a way to remind ourselves that it is how we are judged by God that counts. But words do have power, they may not break our bones, but they can break our will, our heart, and our spirit. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that every word we speak promotes either life or death, that our words can either encourage or devastate, build up or tear down.

In fact, the Proverbs are filled with warnings about the cavalier use of language. It behooves us, then, to not only watch what we say to others, but also how we say it. There are so many times in life when we just ramble on incessantly, carelessly repeating the latest gossip without ever stopping to think of how our words are impacting those around us. We prattle on, so wrapped up in our own little universe, so convinced that we have the “right” to say anything we want to say, never understanding that while we can say whatever we choose, wisdom dictates that we choose our words carefully, thoughtfully, lovingly.

In Matthew 12:33-37, Christ says this:

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Words count. They can be the most beautiful sound in the world, or tear our world completely apart, and we can choose every day to speak life.

Heavenly Father,

Fill my life with peace and love. Fill each breath I take with the wonder of your creation. Show me the meaning of faith; let me know it with every fiber of my being. Teach me to trust that no matter how it appears, I am fully taken care of, and that all of my needs are met at every moment. Help me to shine Your light brightly, so others may be witness to Your majesty. Speak to my heart; let Your Word be my guide, so I may speak life in all I do.  Amen.

~SLM