by Marilyn Turk
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. “You’ve probably heard that old adage before. But it’s not true. Words can hurt, perhaps even more than sticks and stones. Bones can usually mend in a matter of weeks, but we can remember hurtful words for years.
Words have power for good or bad. Words can inspire or destroy. They can encourage or tear down. They can bless or curse. They can be instruments of war or of peace. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9 NIV).
The Bible refers to our words, tongue, and mouth over a thousand times, so they must be important to God. We should consider the impact of our words.
Words Can Harm
In the Ten Commandments, we are told to be careful with our words.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7 NIV).
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16 NIV).
But there are other ways we can misuse words. “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8 NIV). Gossip is defined as sharing information that shouldn’t be shared, whether it’s true or not. How easy it is to get caught up in gossip!
Words can make others angry. Just look at today’s world, and you see evidence of that truth. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).
How many times could situations and relationships be different if someone hadn’t said something offensive to another?
Words Can Benefit
Our words can and should be used for good. Our words can comfort, calm, heal hurts, and encourage others.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:25 NIV).
“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” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
Who wouldn’t prefer to be around someone whose words are gracious, kind, and encouraging?
How does one build others up according to their needs? You can encourage them. The word ‘encouragement’ means “to put courage into.” Many years ago, I ran in a 10k Fourth of July road race. Not being a consistent runner, I was tempted to stop and rest several times during the race. But people were lined up on each side of the road, cheering and encouraging the runners on. Their words like “you can do it,” gave me the courage to continue.
Would you rather hear praise or criticism? Most people prefer praise. Research has shown that it takes five positive comments to counteract one negative one.
Written words can provide the same effect, like when the church of Antioch received a letter from the church in Jerusalem. “The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message” (Acts 15:31 NIV). Don’t you like to get good mail? I do.
To help you use your words wisely, try praying this verse every day:
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NIV
About the author: Award-winning author Marilyn Turk writes historical and contemporary fiction flavored with suspense and romance. Marilyn also writes devotions for Daily Guideposts. She and her husband are lighthouse enthusiasts, have visited over 100 lighthouses and also served as volunteer lighthouse caretakers at Little River Light off the coast of Maine.
When not writing or visiting lighthouses, Marilyn enjoys walking, boating, fishing, gardening, tennis, playing with grandkids and her golden retriever Dolly.
She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Faith, Hope and Love, Word Weavers International, and the United States Lighthouse Society. You can find more on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Join the conversation: What will you do with your words today?