Remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”
I recall saying this as child. Little did I know back then that words are some of the most harmful weapons devised.
I’ll bet you can recall far more easily hurtful words that have been spoken to you than good ones!
The hurtful words seem to linger and leave nasty scars. Heck, I’m still sensitive about my ears… I can still hear the words of this mean little boy from elementary school taunting me about having “elf ears!”
I think we can all agree that words are powerful- they can build up or destroy, especially words we exchange with others. Take for example, the impact of cyber bullying on our youth!
But, what about the internal consequences of the words we speak?
Ever consider how the words you speak might actually be harmful to YOU?
Ephesians 4:29 tells us “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
I have to admit this is VERY difficult for me-- “no unwholesome words?” Really?
Clearly, you haven’t ridden in a car with me as my speech can become very colorful and yes, at times unwholesome!
I believe we all struggle with our words in one way or another--maybe we don’t all curse but what about words that teardown, criticize, complain or even using a tone of voice that is negative?
Let's look at three areas of self-destructive language:
1. Taking the Lord’s name in vain
I hear it over and over again, in public, at the workplace, on television; people using God’s name like it was something from a comic book- commonplace, meaningless and even derogatory. It mindlessly slips so easily through people’s lips especially when frustrated or mad.
Yet, people don’t appreciate the ramifications.
Do you not realize that you are belittling the very creator of the universe- the being that gives you your very next breath? The Jewish people will not even speak God’s name aloud even when reading Scripture because His name is sacred and holy and yet, we use it like it is nothing. We use it for cursing and for flippancy- even “OMG” is belittling for the God of all creation!
Shouldn't his name be magnified- spoken in reverranc?
I can only imagine how God must feel when we demean him so casually. It hurts God, it hurts our relationship with Him and it offends others who do believe His name is sacred.
But, most of all- the Bible tells us that taking the Lord’s name in vain has consequences…..
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain.” –Exodus 20:7
Did you catch that? Punishment!
2. Cursing- Profanity
“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”- George Washington
Boy does this one strike home! Stings to be called foolish, wicked and low, but, in my heart of hearts, I know he speaks truth. Particularly for those that call themselves Christians-how can we truly reflect our beliefs when we allow profane language to gush from our mouths?
The Bible is very clear on this topic:
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” – James 1:26
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”- Matthew 12:35-36
So, the words we speak are a reflection of our heart, character and beliefs and one day we will be judged for them!
3. Negative Speech
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain and impact your health. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, negative words trigger stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication. Negative words increase stress and anxiety and can cause lasting damage to your memory, feelings and emotions. They even argue that habitual use or exposure to negative words can disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction.
Interestingly, the Bible comes to the same conclusion-
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” –Matthew 15:11
Thus, to be healthy we need to guard our mind, speech and environment to remove or limit negative words and their impact. Negative speech like: complaining, criticisms, condemnation, worry, gossip, self-deprecation and fear.
Bottom line: Words can have a lasting impact on our emotional, physical and spiritual health. Negative words can defile us or positive words can strengthen us.
Make no mistake, one day we will give an account and be judged on the words we've used!
Words spoken unwisely-
Hurt others; and
So choose your words carefully- they carry lasting ramifications!
Father, please forgive us for every instance that we have used our words inappropriately. Remove from us all negativity and all unwholesome talk. May our words be used to build up others and to magnify your greatness. Words are powerful and we are thankful for the ability of speech and communication, may you always help us to use this gift wisely.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. - Proverbs 18:21