Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
“I hate you,” the teenage girl screams to her mother before running out of the house.
“We don’t want him on our team,” one student yelled to the teacher. “He is fat, never hits the ball, and can’t run!”
“You never keep your promises,” the wife cries out to her husband. “It’s just the same old excuses!”
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” is a falsehood. Yes, physical attacks are painful, but verbal attacks are also devastating. I propose a new statement: “Sticks and stone may break our bones, but words break our hearts!”
As the Bible reminds us, our tongue is a weapon of fire. It does not shoot blanks—the tongue fires painful bullets that rip and tear their way through the hearts and minds of our loved ones.
Why do we do it?
Because we can . . .
We speak before we think. Afterwards we may regret the harsh words and wish we could take them back. We cannot—once spoken, painful words remain between the victim and the aggressor forever. The victim may choose to forgive, but that never erases the actual words or the pain. The only cure for hurtful words is to keep them unsaid!
We may actively seek to wound. We may know exactly what we are saying and purposefully speak harsh words to punish our loved one for some perceived offense (it may be real) or task left undone. We may even use the excuse of, “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but…” (and the hurt is inflicted). In actuality, whether or not we mean to hurt someone’s feelings is not as relevant as the fact that we did. My husband is not a man that likes to apologize (but who does?) Years ago, his typical apology was, “I am sorry you got upset.” My response was always, “But you are not sorry for what you said to upset me?”
Out of the heart come evil thoughts murders, adultery, sexual sins, theft, false testimonies, and insults. These contaminate a person in God’s sight.
Evil thoughts and insults are ranked in the same list of sins as murder and adultery? Wow! That puts a different perspective on my grumbling about the driver who tailgates me on the interstate, zooms around, then slows to make the exit, forcing me to slam on brakes to keep from rear ending them. I have some evil thoughts at that moment and typically some verbal insults as well.
What should we do?
James tells us that, “No one can tame the tongue.” (James 3:8). So, is it all hopeless? Are we destined to give and receive those hurtful words that break our hearts and those of our loved ones?
No! We can, with the help of our LORD Jesus, guard our words and tame the tongue. We can replace the hurtful words with affirmation, praise, comfort, and blessing! We can think before we speak and examine our words before they are verbalized. If our words are not helpful (in a constructive manner); if they are not merciful; if they are not words of healing and blessing; they should remain unsaid.