“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” I remember chanting that little charmer as a kid, stopping only after the first time I was a receiver of hostile, ugly words. To say words can never harm me could only come from one who has never had a racial slur flung in their face or been ridiculed for being “different” or for not wearing the right shoes or for living on the “wrong” side of town. Words can wound deeply, leaving life-long scars. We must be careful with the words we share, for they are powerful gifts that make or break a human life. Words are the gift of God, so must be treated with appropriate awe. In John 1:1, we read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God….” Our words come from God. We CHOOSE whether they will build up or tear down. We choose….
I have a great reverence for words because they can change the path we follow, as they challenge, support encourage, educate, love. If our use of words is reduced to insult, vulgarity and negativity, then they should be silenced! There is enough pain in the world without misusing this divine gift. I have tremendous respect for those who choose their words well, seeking to unite, encourage and challenge. Words are the tools of God for building a better world. Words can be dangerous, especially when they come from God. The Word made flesh was crucified for trying to make the world kinder and more just.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of the Word. It took him to an early grave. But think what he left behind – words of courage, hope and love. He left a dream. Dr. King said, “What we need in the US is not division; what we need in the US is not hatred; what we need in the US is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black….” He said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….” And Dr. King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear….” Dr. King understood the Word. Choose your words well. You have the power to build a better world…. God loves you, one and all!