‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’
Many of us may remember this adage from childhood. It most likely was our first response to bullies or harsh words. Sticks and stones may, in fact, break our bones, but the damage of harsh words can break our hearts and spirits.
‘There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing’
Recently I had the unpleasant experience of having a verbal sparring match with someone very close to me. Both fighters were fit and well equipped with vast vocabularies, so there was no shortage of words between us. We were both up for the challenge, round after round we went, each throwing verbal punches, some below the belt. The need for self-expression and getting our points across provided the perfect arena for this championship boxing match to continue far beyond the standard twelve rounds. Finally, after the dust settled and the smoke cleared, we limped back to our respective corners to examine our wounds. Hurt Feelings, bruised spirits and sprained hearts were the result. Yes, we both emptied our guns of verbal ammunition, but at what cost?
‘Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark’
Now in the aftermath, we are forced to ask ourselves, was it worth it? Was the need to voice our opinions worth hurting each other’s feelings? And now that our voices have been heard, and our opinions expressed, what have we gained? Yes, our flesh has been gratified, but our spirits have been left famished. And no, I am by no means suggesting that we should allow ourselves to be railroaded or that we should become doormats to be stepped on and abused. However, we must learn to appreciate just how potent and destructive our words can be and see them as damaging as physical sticks and stones.
Fortunately, we were able to salvage our friendship, and a great lesson was learned through this awful experience. We learned to stop throwing verbal sticks and stones. Our words should never bring harm, but instead, should bring healing and comfort. It is not always easy to bite our tongues when tempers flare, but it is always more important to preserve peace than to be heard. A part of emotional and spiritual intelligence is knowing when and how to speak and when to remain silent. Choosing to remain silent takes a lot of self-control, especially for someone like me who has a lot to say and the words to say it. So let us invite the Holy Spirit to act as a referee when the battle of words is presented to us.