“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
If you really want to hurt someone, talk about them. Say bad things about them. Untrue things. You can ruin them beyond repair.
And that is what has happened to the writer of Psalm 109.
A number of psalms refer to slanderous remarks, but this one, of them all, really addresses the problem.
Psalm 109 is an “impreccatory” psalm, a poem calling for God’s retribution against the psalmist’s enemies, and few other psalms are so filled with it than this one. Reading it we might ask: “How can anyone pray for such horrid judgment against another human being? How could anyone be so vengeful? Why is an attitude that we regard so decidedly unholy preserved for us in the psalms?”
Perhaps it’s there to show us how not to pray, but I don’t think so. When you’ve been so deeply hurt by the comments of others, this psalm shows us we can take those feelings to God, and gives us a vocabulary to do so. Leaving retribution in the hands of God, and not taking vengeance in our own hands, is a very holy thing to do.
But I’d suggest there’s another lesson: Be careful what you say to others, what you say about others. None of us wants to be responsible for hurting someone so deeply that their only recourse is to pray a prayer like this one; at least, none of us who prizes being a child of God.