There is an old children’s taunt that goes: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” My mother taught it to me. She was trying to get me to see that words are just words and I shouldn’t let what people say bother me.
The problem was: it didn’t work.
And even if it did work, the saying could not but make me a worse person.
After all, if my perception is that words can’t hurt, I’ll never learn to be cautious about my own words toward others. They are only words after all.
But that’s the problem. Words are more than “just” words.
They can trap us (Proverbs 6:2). They can be deceptive, leading the unsuspecting into danger (Proverbs 7:21), piercing them like a sword (Proverbs 12:18). They stir the emotions of others – sometimes provoking them to do evil.
Our speech betrays the kind of person we really are. That can be a bad thing. But it can also be good. By reflecting on our speech, we can examine ourselves to see the true condition of our hearts, the impact of our culture on our lives, and begin to do something about it. In the matter of spiritual discipline, conforming our lives to the image of Jesus, there may be no better place to start than with our speech.