Friday, February 17, 2017

"Sticks and Stones may Break my Bones but Words will Never Hurt Me." Really?

When I was growing up and someone said something mean to me or my friends, we would often quote, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" as a way to shake off the stinging words and not let them get to us.  Now that I'm older, I realize just how ridiculous that mentality is.

Words carry a tremendous amount of power, and with that comes responsibility.  The recent events  in the political arena of our nation shows just how true that is.  General Michael Flynn's recent resignation as National Security Adviser, President Trump's war of words with the media, the "fake news" allegations within the media all show just how much words can have an impact.  What we say matters.

It seems to me that people of former generations understood that truth better than we do.  My grandparents would often recall situations when they could rely on someone because they stood by their word.  When a neighbor said that he would come over to help out with the building project, he would.  A person's words meant something.  Now, we can text or e-mail or post something on social media and not really think about the consequences of what we're putting out there.

Paul gave great advice about communication in his letter to the Ephesians.  He had spent 3 and a 1/2 years with them (See Acts 19).  But as he wrote these words, he was in prison for preaching the good news about Jesus.  Since he could no longer visit them personally, he wrote a letter to make sure that they would continue to nurture and maintain the unity within the church.  With such an emphasis on unity, it's no surprise to see him emphasize good communication skills.  Paul realized that words can either unify or tear apart.  So he wrote, "Speaking the truth in love, we will grow...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 4:15, 29).  Did you hear it?  What we say matters.

In these words from Ephesians 4, we are given two timeless truths for communication: 1) Speak the truth in love.  2) Speak what is helpful.  Now, confession time.  I've been known at times to speak the truth, but not in love.  I've also been known to try to sugar coat the truth under the guise of love.  Neither of those work because in the end it's never helpful for those who listen.

The best example we have is our perfect Savior, who every time he spoke, he spoke love...which was always helpful to those who listened.  He speaks the truth when he says that words matter.  He speaks the truth when he says that sometimes the words we speak hurt others and we need to repent and trust in him for forgiveness.

Jesus died and rose again for our forgiveness.  That's why the most important words ever spoken are these: "He is risen."  God the Father accepted Jesus' payment for our sins and raised Jesus from the dead.  So, the next conversation you have, remember, speak the truth in love that it may benefit those who listen.  And for the times you fail, remember, Jesus says, "I forgive you."  Words matter.