Sticks and Stones will break my bones, and Words can wound my soul.
Not quite how we heard it growing up, is it? I’ve been hurt physically and emotionally, and have to admit the most searing have been the words… Words sometimes said in anger or in haste without thought of another’s feelings. Words that accompanied the physical pain or were insinuated as the reason for the affliction. Words of strangers, of friends supposedly said in jest, hasty or painful words of family (physical family and spiritual family) seem to hurt worst of all. Many of you know my mother was abusive and I recall thinking if my own mother cannot or will not love me, how will anyone else?
Much of my attention was on what was thrown at me, and too little on how I reacted. I used to focus on a verse out of context – Matthew 15:18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
Therefore, I would think, if that person said it, it means it has been simmering in their heart for a long time, and it is their truth about me.
My wise husband, knowing about my painful past, helped set up some rules pre-marriage. The first was that we would never name-call. The second was not to use always or never in a negative way because “permanent-izing” the words made them exaggerated, accusatory, and actually impossible. The third rule was to make a pact to agree and realize that we would never intentionally hurt one another, but being human, acknowledge that it was bound to happen.
At that point, it is our choice what we do with the perceived wound, or what guidelines there are encouraging me not to wound others with my words:
“How about if I forget that ever happened?” usually brings a huge sigh and a thanks. But what about intentional barbs from those difficult people in our lives? And what if I choose to accept the offense and brood about it? Spiritual heartburn and constant upset stomach causes the expected physical reaction:
Matthew 15:11 It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”
What? Getting back to the verse above, things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…is followed by
Matthew 15:19-20 It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes.
So pollution is less about what I “swallow” or take in, and more about if I choose to let it simmer until it boils over. The original word for “vomit” comes from spew: to eject violently or abundantly.
Most pain-inflicted words come from spewing abundantly or violently. It took me a long time to realize that the person I allow to make me angry, is the one who controls me, but it is still my choice to give the offense to God or to chew on it until I spew (the same garbage) out.
The Message very clearly expounds on what spewing words looks like:
Eccl. 5:2 Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.
Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.
God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.
Yep. Sticks and stones can break my bones.
And words – Jeremiah 15:19 says, This is how God answered me:
“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.
Then you’ll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.
Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
Don’t change your words to suit them.
God’s rule: Don’t respond in the same vein – don’t step down to the level of those who would wound.
Psa. 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.