Have you ever heard that saying before? How about “I’ll believe it when I see it”, or “sticks and stones may break my bones but…” can you finish it? Our culture tends to put a lot of weight on actions even though the Bible says our words of faith move mountains. We tell our kids and students not to listen to the mean kid in class. We tell them their brother or sister didn’t mean the rude things they said. I know most of us correct the child that is being rude and then try to console the one who has hurt feelings but maybe that’s not enough. Do the excuses we give kids teach them their words have no power? I believe that’s exactly what we are teaching. By saying “they didn’t mean it” or “… words will never hurt me”, we are teaching our kids other people’s words don’t have meaning; so why would their words have meaning? If they are supposed to ignore mean comments, can’t other kids ignore their mean comments? Will they start to apologize by saying “sorry, but you shouldn’t have made me say that”. James 3:5-8 talks about how forest fires are started by a match and our tongue is that match. Matthew 12: 26- 27 says “we will give an account for every careless word we speak”, and Proverbs 12:18 says “…The tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Ephesians 4:29, Matthew 12:33-35, Proverbs 18:21 if you want more.)
So, what do we do with these scriptures in a world where everyone speaks so freely? The answer is simple; we watch what we say. The answer is also hard; we watch what we say. James 3:8 says no man can tame the tongue. No human. The book of James says to be slow to speak and slow to anger. I believe that’s the key, be slow to anger because in anger we say things we don’t mean. Or worse, we say something we do mean in the harshest, most hurtful way possible. When we take time to think before we speak, we have an advantage over the person we are speaking to and we have the opportunity to weigh our words. The opportunity to decide if those words are worth saying. Jesus never spoke an idle word, and he corrected the apostles when they did.
So, when we are teaching people, whether it’s kids or adults, it’s important to remember a few things. Don’t make excuses that justify another’s behavior. Make sure the hurt know it’s okay to be upset but it is not okay to respond in suit. Reminding people that there is evil in this world but they don’t have to contribute. Lastly, I believe telling someone they’ve gone too far is important. I don’t want you to think this is the easy way out because watching our words might be the hardest thing in the world to master.
[Here is a disclaimer, I believe we need to speak truth in love and I believe in constructive debates. I also believe we need to teach kids not to be quick to be offended. There is a balance that is hard to reach.]