What we say harms or helps.
“…[I]n the Christian Recorder, March 1862, in a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, an ‘old adage’ was presented in this form:
Sticks and stones will break my bones, But words will never harm me.”1
I would like very much to agree with that adage, but words seem to hurt much more often than sticks and stones.
Many physiological and psychological explanations exist as to why negative words affect our disposition, our health, and our overall well-being. While these explanations are very useful and necessary in order for us to reach a higher understanding that will enrich the quality of our lives along with the length of our lives, in this particular article the focus is on what we trust is equally important, if not more. We need a deeper and more spiritual explanation as to why the words we choose to utter make all the difference in our lives and the lives of others.
What is a word? According to Dictionary.com, it is “a unit of language… .”
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary explains the definition of word as “something that is said.”
It should also be said that our English word word is from the Greek word, “logos: a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech…divine utterance, analogy.”3
In the Gospel of John 1:1-3, it is written “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Taking into consideration that John clearly informs us that the “word” matters because it cannot be separated from God, then it stands to reason that what we say ABSOLUTELY matters!
Oftentimes, and I trust that many of us have experienced this, when we hear a negative word, are spoken to harshly or even reprimanded, a change in our feelings results.
In an article by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman, entitled,”The Most Dangerous Word in the World.”
They have discovered that when someone who was put in an FMRI machine (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) that takes pictures of brain activity and saw the word no for under one second, they had an adverse reaction. The brain released chemicals or stress-producing hormones as well as neurotransmitters that disrupted the normal functions of the brain.
Further testing proved that when someone who is already struggling with depression, when shown a list of negative words for just seconds, caused him or her to become more depressed.
So what’s the fuss over?l Why does it matter how we say something or what we say?
B. Cobbey Crisler says in his lecture- Simon the disciple- that “God’s Word As Communication it is never unrelated to action”
Spreading gossip to falsely accusing someone to bullying all contribute to the destruction of one’s joy and the overall breakdown of society.
This excerpt from www.girlshealth.com states facts about how bullying hurts:
- “When they get older, teens who bully are more likely to hurt their spouse or child.
- People who bully often get involved in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and using drugs or alcohol.
- Bullies often don’t do as well in school and are more likely to drop out.
- Kids who bully may have power and status, but may not be liked very much.
- Childhood bullies may have emotional problems as adults.”
When someone is bullied, their chances of committing suicide increase.
Let’s do an equation: negative words x gossip + bullying = harm, misery, and death.
Now reverse it: positive words x encouragement = joy, self-acceptance and love
Since “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), and Love did not create anything unlike itself, we arrive at a very fundamental and simple answer to the question as to why adverse language hurts, because God does not speak that way; if, however, we still need more evidence to support this, the book of James has much written about the danger of a nugatory tongue.
“2 We all stumble along the way. If a person never speaks hurtful words or shouts in anger or profanity, then he has achieved perfection. The one who can control his tongue can also control the rest of his body. 3 It’s like when we place a metal bit into a horse’s mouth to ride it; we can control its entire body with the slightest movement of our hands. 4 Have you ever seen a massive ship sailing effortlessly across the water? Despite its immense size and the fact that it is propelled by mighty winds, a small rudder directs the ship in any direction the pilot chooses. 5 It’s just the same with our tongues! It’s a small muscle, capable of marvelous undertakings. And do you know how many forest fires begin with a single ember from a small campfire? 6 The tongue is a blazing fire seeking to ignite an entire world of vices. The tongue is unique among all parts of the body because it is capable of corrupting the whole body. If that were not enough, it ignites and consumes the course of creation with a fuel that originates in hell itself. 7 Humanity is capable of taming every bird and beast in existence, even reptiles and sea creatures great and small. 8 But no man has ever demonstrated the ability to tame his own tongue! It is a spring of restless evil, brimming with toxic poisons. 9 Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image. 10 One mouth streams forth both blessings and curses. My brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be.”6
Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Proverbs 18:9 reads as follows, “Many a one has caused his own death, or the death of others, by a false or injurious tongue.” http://biblehub.com/proverbs/18-9.htm
No matter what religion we may or may not practice, and no matter what age, race, or gender, I believe that many of us have felt the keen and sharp thrust of a negative remark, a derogatory statement, or harsh criticism that pierced the very center of our being and found their way to our hearts.
Opprobrious words are just as lethal if not more than carnal weapons, and some may need a lifetime to heal from its injection, but just as we need a permit to carry a gun, maybe we should have permit to carry such a lethal weapon as the tongue!
“If you truly loved yourself you could never hurt another.” Buddha
Biblical citations that support this claim that pernicious words produce harmful results: John 14:23-24 (KJV) “23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words.”
KJV-King James Version
(Ps. 19:14, Ps. 141:3, Prov. 15:1, Prov. 15:4, Prov. 18:20-21, Prov. 17:27, Mt. 4:4, Mt. 7:24, Mt. 8:8, Mt. 8:16, Mt. 10:14, Mt. 12:36-37, Mt. 13:19, Mt. 24:35, Mt. 26:44, Acts 6:13, Acts 2:14, Acts 26:25, Ro. 10: 8, Ro. 10:18, Heb. 1:3, Heb. 11:3, Heb. 12:19, Heb. 6:5, Eph. 4:29, Eph. 5:26, Eph. 6:17, 1 Peter 1:25, 2 Peter 3:5, Col. 3:8)
1 “Sticks and Stones (nursery Rhyme).” World Public Library. Accessed August 11, 2016. http://www.worldlibrary.org/article/whebn0012804887/sticks and stones (nursery rhyme).
2 “The Most Dangerous Word in the World.” Psychology Today. Accessed August 11, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/the-most-dangerous-word-in-the-world.
3 “Strong’s Greek: 3056. λόγος (logos) -- a Word (as Embodying an Idea), a Statement, a Speech.” Strong’s Greek: 3056. λόγος (logos) -- a Word (as Embodying an Idea), a Statement, a Speech. Accessed August 11, 2016. http://biblehub.com/greek/3056.htm.
4 “How Does Bullying Others Hurt You?” Home. Accessed August 11, 2016. http://www.girlshealth.gov/bullying/beingthebully/bullyhurt.html.
5 “Bullying Suicide Statistics.” NoBullying Bullying CyberBullying Resources. Accessed August 11, 2016. https://nobullying.com/bullying-suicide-statistics/.