“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“What a horrible idea.”
“What are you wearing?!”
“You could be prettier if…”
“You should just give up – it’ll never work out for you.”
Have you ever received these words from someone? Maybe spoken them to someone else? In a moment of frustration or anger, did you feel those feelings transforming into biting words wanting to hurt someone in return for your pain or discomfort? Or what about this – have you ever ended a sentence with “I’m just teasing!” or “I didn’t really mean that” or “Don’t take me so seriously” ?
Many of us have joked around or been sarcastic with someone “all in good fun”, but do we ever stop to think about whether that “joke” or comment may have hurt instead? Often when we are being sarcastic, the root of the snide comment is something that is actually bothering us about someone else. What we try to convince ourselves is a joke is really a dig or criticism we are pretending to soften. Rather than having a truthful, real, and perhaps uncomfortable conversation about the issue, we hide behind a façade of frivolity.
I feel like I have a pretty good and light-hearted sense of humor and I have been on the receiving end of comments that were meant in jest. But often I find myself playing some of those words over and over in my head to see if maybe there is some truth to what was said. I’ll analyze, scrutinize, and try to “fix” myself based on what I heard. What’s worse is that I’ll replay comments from many years ago that will cause me to doubt myself or a decision I’m making. A comment that had no bearing whatsoever on the current issues will try to intimidate, discourage, and throw me off course telling me I’m not good enough, no one really cares, or why bother.
The truth is - words are powerful.
The old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is an outright lie. Words dig. Words last. Words infiltrate our minds and take up residence for a very long time. As much as we may want to evict the ones that keep jabbing us, sometimes they hang on with a vice grip. And it seems that while the positive words and encouraging reminders are laying out on the lanai relaxing in the summer breeze, the negative words are jumping in our faces making sure we stay out of the sunlight.
While our words have power, we do as well. We have the power to decide what we speak. We determine how we verbalize our feelings and how they may impact someone else. We have the choice to speak life into someone else or destruction; to provide words of healing or pain; to build up and encourage or damper and deflate.
Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Proverbs 12:18: The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
We are each precious. We have dreams and goals. We endure hardships and challenges. Our words can heal and lift and propel in magnificent ways. Be the light in someone’s darkness. Share in someone’s joys. When faced with the choice, always speak life.