Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR

In first grade, there was a girl in my class who told me that my eyes looked like goldfish.

For the love of fish.  

I’m still not quite sure what that meant, but I do know that I spent too much time starring at myself in the mirror due to a concern over my fish-like eyeballs.

In Highschool, a boy told me I was “pretty cool,” but he tagged that with: “It’s just that guys aren’t going to date a pastor’s daughter.”  

And so, I kept that aspect of my identity a secret for as long as I could, coming up with alternative ways to explain my father’s profession.

In college, after playing piano for a chapel service, a student remarked that I swayed a lot when playing. “It looks funny.”

I told him he looked funny.

It was, admittedly, a terrible comeback and didn’t help my cause at all. But for years, I was conscious of my “movements” while playing at the piano.

The Significance of Our Words

Words don’t just disappear. At times I wish they did, but from the moment they leave our mouth, they often make their way into the small crevasses of a hearer’s memory and nestle in, sometimes remaining for a lifetime.

If our words have this kind of impact, it’s essential that as believers we use them wisely. God certainly intended for us to speak; we’re created in His image, and He is a speaking God giving the world His inspired words for our benefit.

But we’re sinners, trudging through a broken world. Every one of us has messed up with our words, and we will likely do damage with them again. God in His graciousness forgives fully and completely, but that doesn’t mean that what we say won’t have a lasting impact.

It’s only wise, then, that as believers we give careful consideration to what the Bible has to say about the words we speak.

Our Words Reveal the Condition of our Heart

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt. 12:34-35).

These two verses are incredibly convicting. Our spiritual condition is made manifest by our words. This doesn’t mean, believer, that your unthoughtful or unkind words are unforgiveable. What it does mean is that we have a responsibility before God to consider the reasons underlying our harsh or rash words.

In the very next verse in Matthew 12, we’re reminded that we will have to give an account for the sinful words we speak (vs. 36-37). This is truly incomprehensible, but the point is that while we are saved by grace alone, our words are connected to the hidden places in our heart. If we are regularly offering belittling, combative, or profane language, it says something about the state of our spirituality.

Our Words Have Power

Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Prov. 18:21).

From my own experience as shared above, words have power. They can encourage, build up, and make a person feel valuable, but they can utterly hurt and tear down as well. Are you thinking before you speak? Or is your tenancy to lash out? Once our words are released, we can’t gather them back in.

The words of the gospel message have the kind of power that provides grace, hope, and encouragement in the Lord. This is what our speech should do. That doesn’t mean speaking without conviction, but it means considering how our words will be received by another. It means having self-control and not using words that we know will hurt a person.

Less Talking and More Listening  

…be quick to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19-20).

Sometimes it’s better to simply restrain our tongue. Not always, and not in every circumstance, but when we talk, we’re usually considering ourselves; when we listen, we’re more thoughtful in contemplating another’s story or point of view.

The Proverbs also remind us that restraining our lips can be prudent (10:19). The more we carry on, the more likely it is that we will say something we shouldn’t. This is the case both with our verbal dialogue as well as our written language. Talk less and listen more.

Our God Hears our Words

Jesus hears our words, and we will one day give an account for them, but He also hears our cries for help when it comes to our speech. We serve a gracious God who has given His Holy Spirit to work in and through us, and that work never ceases!

Allow the words of Jesus to daily wash over you and penetrate your heart in such a way that His truth affects your words. Pray that your speech will reflect the gospel, offering life giving encouragement and blessing. We will stumble, but God’s words will never fail. The Lord hears, so every morning, ask Him to give you the wisdom to see where your speech does not match your actions, and the patience to respond to others in such a way that honors God and brings Him glory.

About the Author:

Katie Polski

Katie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity and serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee. She also spends much of her time writing, playing piano, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and has served on the board of Covenant. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com

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