Whoever came up with this famous child saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” could be no further from the truth. If this was true then why do grown adults still struggle with painful words they were told when they were a child. “Stupid, fat, bean pole, ugly, dumb, slut, lazy, no good, failure, dork…” Perhaps one of those words sting now as you read them across the page.
Words do hurt and some of those words stay with us even though they are completely untrue. Words become engrained in our minds and take shape in our lives to where we are fully convinced of it and experiences only build upon it. All it takes is one teacher to tell a kid that he is dumb or a father to tell his daughter she is fat and the life of destruction has made its mark in the heart of the child only to destroy their confidence and identity. Words do hurt. They hurt us now and they hurt people just as much many years ago in that James, the brother of Jesus warned us in order for us to stop hurting others with our words. He refers to them as fire, world of evil, and a vipers poison (James 3:7).
It wasn’t only in James do we find the words a “vipers poison,” we find it mentioned again in the book of Psalms (140:3) and Romans (3:13). What is it that a vipers poison can be related to our words?
Let’s begin with what it is first.
Snakes make the top 10 list of things people are afraid of even though 85% of snakes worldwide are not even venomous. But given the amount of damage a snake bite can inflict its not surprising that a few are giving the others a bad reputation.
Take the Daboia Russelii and old world viper found throughout India and the surrounding countries. With the onset of a bite one would immediately feel pain in the area, the vipers fangs puncture the skin and the poisonous venom is released trickling down the fangs and into the flesh. Within minutes blood begins to show up in the mouth and the blood pressure will drop. The skin and muscles near the bite begin to deteriorate. Blood clots form, causing failure of kidneys and other organs which may result in death. (iflscience.com)
Is that incredible, that just one little bite from a snake can shut an entire body down, leading to death within minutes? I found this quite interesting, especially since blood is referred to life many times in the Bible.
Our words do the same thing. It begins in the heart and carries its way to our tongue and with one lash the damage is done. How many times do we wish we, myself included could take back the words we had said or perhaps have no clue we said something hurtful!
With such a gruesome visual of the snake bite does it stir you in that what you say can hurt someone so painfully, so destructively, so violently? I know many of us are already madly thinking of things we may have said to someone. How many times have we said something only to want to put our foots in our mouth?
Before we get too anxious and worried on things we have said reflect on these ideas for a moment:
1-FORGIVENESS: Ask God to reveal anyone you have hurt with your words or anyone that has hurt you and forgive, forgive, forgive. God forgives us when we ask for forgiveness and we should also go to that person and ask for forgiveness even if they don’t ask for it or even know it hurt you. Why because we have sinned and forgiving does an amazing thing…it releases you from it regardless of the other person. In some situations, especially if the person has no idea they wronged you and it would only cause more conflict, you may have to leave the forgiveness between you and God and pray for that person.
2-DO A HEART CHECK: We have all said things, and when we say those mean and hurtful things we need to do a heart check to see where is it coming from. Are we harboring envy or selfish ambition? What causes you to say those things? Then ask God to get to the core of it and when He begins to reveal some offensive ways in it, take action to make those changes!
3-PUSH THE PAUSE BUTTON: Practice pausing before we speak and ask God to give us the words to communicate properly and in humility. I tried doing this for one day with my daughter and it was the hardest thing ever. I found myself apologizing a lot more afterwards rather than remembering to ask God for the words prior to reacting! It was so hard!! It takes a lot of discipline and practice, but totally worth it don’t you think? Especially considering the outcome.
4 – START OFF RIGHT: Start off your day by asking God as soon as you wake in the morning to help you with your words for the day. Then do your best to remember to pause before any conversation to stop and pray and ask God for words.
5-DON”T LET OTHERS DEFINE YOU: One of the greatest parts of being a Christian is that our identity doesn’t lie within what other’s think or say about you. We can be confident in our identity with Christ that will never change! The closer your relationship with Christ the more you get it and the less you allow others to define you. You are a child of the Almighty God what can be greater than that? And it doesn’t matter if you are any of the things that others have said about you…because God takes you as you are and accepts and loves you regardless of any other factor.
5-WATCH WHAT GOD WILL DO THROUGH YOU: We live in a world where we let words just fly out of our mouth with hardly any thought or control. So imagine what would happen if you decided to do the unnatural and begin to build others up with your words rather than cutting them down. People will begin to be blown away with your responses rather than our explosive reactions. You will be blown away on how much more effective you are with your own relationships because you have made a step in controlling your own tongue.
Oh Lord, please help us give life to others with our words. Let us not be the viper that destroys. Begin in our heart and purify us Lord. Show us where are hearts need to become sweet and not bitter. Reveal to us where forgiveness needs to happen whether it was us that hurt or someone hurt us. Help us remember that all of us stumble and we must forgive as you have forgiven us. Do not let bitterness or pride take root. Keep us humble and sweet. Help us pause before we speak and pray for wisdom in our speech, self-control in our speech and that you put words in our mouths. Help us build others up, love them with our mouths and praise you our God. May a sweet sound come from our lips and glorify the One who has given them to us. Cleanse us from the inside out so that our mouths are a reflection of your own Words. May we be rooted deeply in you and let our fruit be sweet to the taste. Amen.
PS I pray that if I have hurt anyone by my words that you will please forgive me. I am human, in progress and that’s why I need God every hour of every day. Blessings to you!