Sticks and stones may break my bones…As a young child, my mom sent me to the convenient store to buy her a newspaper. She could see me walk the alley way to the store out the window. She had visual sight on me until I rounded the corner to the store. My sister and brother were very young and probably taking a nap when she decided to send me to the store. I walked confidently down the alley way with my newspaper change in my hand…so many years ago it was probably only a dime maybe a quarter. As I got closer to the store a group of big kids stood in my path and demanded my money. I was scared so I turned around and ran towards home. Those big kids picked up rocks from the alley and started throwing them at me. Trying to get them to stop, I threw my money down and ran as fast as my young legs could carry me. Luckily, I was not harmed and my mom never sent me to the convenient store again.
Grand Rapids has an annual event called “Art Prize.” The winning art piece receives a prize. It is a great draw for the city and a wonderful cultural event for all who come. One of the pieces are my pictures for this blog this week. It reminded me of conversations I have had with people…sometimes I am the aggressor and other times I am on the other side being pushed verbally to the point of destroyed communication.
Proverbs speaks often about our tongues. Our tongues are an indicator of our hearts. Have you had those moments when you said something and as it was coming out your brain said to stop, but your tongue kept on wagging. Maybe your words came out and only later as you evaluated your day, did the conviction of the Holy Spirit bring to your mind the unworthiness of your words.
Maybe you have been on the receiving end of these words and you feel like the sculpture at Art Prize, falling apart by the words that have been spoken to you. Once words are said they can never be taken back, and those hurtful and aggressive words remain seared on our brain with the pain etched in our hearts.
Proverbs has much to say about our tongues.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4, 5).
Often, someone has something negative to say to us and we try to retaliate with words of hurt. They hurt me, so I will hurt them. How does this usually turn out? Nothing is resolved and our words come back to haunt us. We all know people who try to control others with their words or actions. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2). So when someone is being foolish with their words, we should “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7). Have nothing to do with those that are foolish. Sometimes this is impossible. These people are in our families or we work with them. We are forced to deal with them. So what do we do…
First of all, remember that they are fools. Seek the Lord about how to deal with them and then put into practice other biblical principles. Seek to be wise.
“A soft answer turns away wrath…” (Proverbs 15:1)
“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23)
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27)
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
“…a soft tongue will break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)
When you go back and replay conversations in your head, what is it you wish you would have said? I always wish I had been more uplifting and encouraging. Proverbs 31 has always been a challenge to me. The impression of this woman is not a mousy doormat, but rather a savvy business woman and home maker. Yet, what is said about her tongue? “…and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26).
My goal is not to allow communication to be destroyed by another’s aggressiveness, but rather to keep communication healthy because the “teaching of kindness” is so much a part of my nature and heart there is nothing else that comes from my tongue.
Stick and stones do break bones and names and ugly conversation does cause permanent harm. But “the tongue of the righteous is choice silver…and the lips of the righteous feed many.” (Proverbs 10:20, 21).