Most of us grew up hearing the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” My friends, wherever that phrase came from, it is far from reality. The pain that words can cause is as deep as the deepest sea! Words can hurt and they can hurt deeply.
Think of how many conflicts you either have been a part of or have seen others engage in that were all about the words that were spoken. Wars have been started over words. People have been killed or physically hurt because of words. To say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is simply not true.
The Bible warns about the danger of words when James the brother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ cautioned about the use of our tongue. In James 3:1-12, James warns us that the tongue can be dangerous, destructive and very difficult to tame. This warning is enough to raise concern about how we use words. The challenge is, we are constantly using words, and with our words, we are either building up people or tearing them down.
The late Dr. Judith Glaser, the pioneer of Conversational Intelligence, said, “Words make worlds.” By that, she meant that our words create the world in which people experience us when we communicate with them. By our words, people will either experience us as kind, caring, respectful, trustworthy and warm; or they will experience us as rude, bullying, disrespectful and uncaring.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone regarding their use of words. The person was very surprised to discover that what they thought was normal communication turned out to be hurtful to another person. After our conversation the person went and apologized for the hurt caused.
In trying to help us avoid hurting others with our words and instead to build them up, Richard Rohr makes the following observation:
Rather than consuming spiritual gifts for yourself alone, you must receive all words of God so that you can speak them to others tenderly and with subtlety. If any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of yourself or others, it is not likely the voice of God but the ego.
Dr. Rohr is pointing to the fact that it is often our ego which leads us to hurt others with our words. Therefore, the key to using our words to help other has to do with our relationship with God. Left to ourselves we will destroy each other with our words. But when we are walking in the light as He is in the light, our words will be healing and uplifting.
In our attempt to be uplifting, healing and caring with our words, there will be times when we will give in to our egos and hurt others with our words. But because we desire to be honoring to God with the use of our tongue, we will own our poor choice of words and ask for forgiveness. We will ask to be held accountable so we do not continue to hurt others with our words.
Words make worlds, and the people you interact with on a daily basis are experiencing you in the world you have created, or are creating, with your words. As followers of Jesus, when we speak we are speaking as his representatives, and therefore, we should seek to imitate him.
If a voice comes from accusation and leads to accusation, it is quite simply the voice of the “Accuser,” which is the literal meaning of the biblical word “Satan.” Shaming, accusing, or blaming is simply not how God talks. God is supremely nonviolent. God only cajoles, softens, and invites us into an always bigger field, and it is always a unified field. [Richard Rohr]
Your words matter. Therefore, chose them carefully and wisely so those who are influenced by the words you speak will experience healing, hope, love and respect when they are in your presence.
If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.