Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Although true in the physical sense, that little maxim can be one of the biggest lies ever told. Words can still hurt long after broken bones have healed.
Careless conversations or harsh remarks can impede or destroy individual self-esteem, the harmony of a marriage, the trust of a friendship, the spirit of a congregation and the life or lives of others. The Bible warns about the destructive power of words. “You have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth”. Proverbs 6:2-3
Seek understanding before criticism of friends, family, church members, co-workers or anyone. Words, those we speak and the ones we allow ourselves to hear and receive will impact our success or lack of success. Solomon warns against wordiness; “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrain his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
It is very important to know the difference between correcting and criticizing. The goal of correction is restoration. The goal of criticism is condemnation. If you are interested in Restoration-you will do it privately and if you are bent on condemnation you will handle it publicly or egotistically. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, But the Tongue of the wise bring healing.” Proverbs 12:18.
Condemnation of others can reveal our innermost thoughts, feelings and secrets. Know that our words are indicators of what we are thinking and what we desire. “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speak rashly will come to ruin’ Proverbs 13:3
I recently read this parable: The philosopher Xanthus, having an elaborate dinner party-instructs a servant, “Go to the market and get the Best Thing. The servant returns and prepares a five course dinner; Tongue cooked in every imaginable way. Xanthus questioned his servant “Didn’t I tell you to Get The Best Thing?” The Servant answered, “I did-isn’t the Tongue the organ of Sociability, Eloquence, Kindness and Worship?”
The next evening’s Dinner Party, Xanthus sends his servant back to the market and instructs him to “Get the worst Thing in the market.” The servant returns and prepares five servings of Tongue. Xanthus is livid, “Didn’t I tell you to Get the Worse Thing in the market?” The Servant said, “I did- isn’t the Tongue the organ of blasphemy, defamation and lying?”