Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sticks and Stones…

“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so my brothers.” James 3: 8-10

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hurt by someone’s words. Whether intentional or not, peoples’ words can be used to cut us down and if truth be told, we have probably used words to cut others down as well, even if just returning “fire” for an insult leveled at us.

It’s really amazing that words have so much power. The old children’s saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” is such a lie that we never hear adults saying it to one another, do we? The reality is that some of us have been so hurt by words that we can vividly recall those things that have been said to us, even if they were years ago. I think back to my grade school or high school days and the few physical altercations I was in are like hazy shadows in my memory, but if I wanted to, I could recall with pinpoint accuracy the times I was most damaged by someone’s words.

Words shape us. Words change us. Words capture us and move us. They can also uplift our spirits or dash our emotions in an instant. You can be on top of the world and someone can come along and with one or two words send you crashing down. Or you can be down in the dumps and the right word can give you perspective and hope. Words can send our hearts soaring and bring our emotions into the open. Perhaps this is why we are drawn to great literature, stories and poems that can make women swoon and men girt for battle. And sometimes the most powerful words are the ones not spoken.

And so we who speak and write words have a great responsibility to use our words carefully and not use them simply for our own gain, or popularity, our own notoriety or praise, nor for the desecration of others. We need to use our words, either written or spoken, to uplift, to raise others beyond themselves, to point people to something better, to something grander, to something we all desire but sometimes do not know how to articulate. Ultimately, we must use our words to help one other find Christ.

We can do this by compliments, by encouragement, by congratulations. And we can do it with challenge and accountability and even with criticism, if it is sincere and loving. And sometimes it will be by saying nothing, but letting our actions speak louder than our words: a kind gesture, a warm smile, giving up a seat on a crowded bus or train, helping someone in a pinch, being patient, being calm, being nice. We can do it by not responding to insults with insults. We can do it by making someone know they are loved. People everywhere, whether they know it or not, are seeking Jesus, the WORD of God. We want to make sure that when they read or hear our words, they are a reflection of THE Word, so that in the end, our words do not become a stumbling block to THE Word being spoken in their hearts by the Author and Speaker of all life.

Dear Jesus, You know the pain of sharp words. You felt the poison arrows of lies and insults pierce Your Sacred Heart and You responded with love. Please give me the grace to love those who have hurt me with their words and help me to never use words carelessly or maliciously, but always use them to bring glory to You and dignity to others. Amen.

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