Remember the little rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"?
I think this is one of the greatest lies we were taught as children and one that we are still teaching children today.
Let's just be honest for one second...WORDS do hurt! They shatter us down to the deepest part of our hearts often never to be forgotten. They stay with us forever....that is just how POWERFUL our words can be.
When I share my story with women and girls of all ages, the story of a little boy in my first grade class always comes up.
I was born with a mild condition of Cerebral Palsy in the left side of my body. My foot was turned inward, I walked with a limp, and I held my arm up never knowing b/c I could not feel it. One day, this little boy in my class came up to me around all our other friends. He was supposed to be a friend too. He started hopping around me like a bunny rabbit with his arms up and he said to me, "Caris, this is what you look like all the time...a bunny rabbit"...he was holding his arms the way I did, hopping around me and laughing at his clever joke. I innocently smiled as everyone else was laughing, but inside, it bruised me to my core.
I was 6 years old when that comment was said to me....I am 36 now, and I still remember that moment, that comment, the laughter, and that boy's face.
I can look back over my life and pin point other instances of other people looking at me and telling me that I wasn't good enough, that I couldn't do it, that I wasn't physically capable to accomplish things like other people, and even that I would bring an entire team of people down. Some of these words have even been spoken to me over the last few years.
Maybe as you are reading this, you are thinking of moments in your life with words spoken to you that were bruising and piercing to your soul.
I hope that as you are reading this and you have all of those moments come to you, that you also have some good in there too.
Even though I had people all of my life, even still today at times, tell me what I'm not, there are those who chose to speak their WORDS to me differently. They chose to use their WORDS to speak LIFE and ENCOURAGEMENT over me.
My parents, teachers, friends who didn't look at me any differently...who didn't look at me as broken. They would encourage me, and believe in me and tell me not to give up! They would point out the good they saw in me...good I didn't see in myself if I were honest.
My mom would always remind me of what Philippians 4:13: For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
You see the Bible is very clear about the power of our words:
Proverbs 12:18-The words of the reckless PIERCE like swords, but the tongue of the wise BRINGS healing.
Proverbs 12:21-The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Colossians 4:6-Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Ephesians 4:29-Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Proverbs 15:4-The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
I could keep going with a list of scripture, but I will stop here for a moment and ask you this...do you want to speak life over others or crush their spirits?
Of course none of us are going to say out loud, "I want to crush people!"..but, you see, that is exactly what we do when we don't think before we speak....we are crushing others around us and it has got to stop!
This is the moment where you can draw a line in the sand and decide that you want to use your words to encourage those around you instead of crushing them. So how can we do that for each other?
First, think before you speak....is this going to help or hurt someone? Will it encourage them or bring them down? Would I want someone to say this to me? I am not saying don't speak the truth in love b/c we all need to be given direction too, but there is a way to do it without destroying someone's spirit.
Second, daily challenge yourself to encourage someone. Maybe it is your children, your spouse, your co-worker...a stranger walking down the same aisle as you at Hobby Lobby. Speak with LIFE over them. If there is power in our words, what can you say to them to change their thoughts about life or even about themselves? What could you say to your child when she comes home from school crying b/c some kid was a bully to him or her?
Third, teach your children now the power in their words. If you are trying to teach them the little rhyme that I began this blog with, I would encourage you to stop doing so. Instead, teach them that yes words can hurt and we should be careful what we say. Teach them to build others up around them and not tear them down. How different would our schools looked if we as adults taught these children the power in their words?
Finally, watch what you say on social media. It is amazing how fearless people are today hiding behind their phone screens. Social Media, in my opinion, has become the biggest bully of them all. People will say some of the most crushing things and not think twice about what they have done. Suicide rates are going up year after year not just for adults....but for children and young people beginning at the ages of 10-11..yes you read that right...10 and 11!!!.....I have a 9 year old daughter and this wrecks me to the core.
Check your child's social media. Teach them how to use it for good. Be an example to them on how to use it for good. Talk to them about the effects of social media b/c it is happening everywhere.
Yes words are POWERFUL...your words, your friend's words, the teacher's words, the media's words...everyone's words...BUT, the MOST POWERFUL life-giving WORDS you can have in your life, is the Word of God...the Bible.
Hebrews 4:12-For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The dark hole of depression that I was in not too long ago, with words of death and shame and discouragement I would speak over myself daily, could not stop the power of God's Word penetrating that dark hole and shining a light of hope and life into my spirit.
Open it today and let it speak to you...He loves you and He has plans and hope for you. As He speaks hope to you today, share that hope with someone else.
Let's start with our own WORDS today. Let's use the power that is within our WORDS for good.