Friday, August 19, 2011

Sticks and Stones

When I was growing up my mom used to say certain phrases quite often.  Some were general good advice, some were just plan odd; here are a few that will never be forgotten:

·         If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
·         You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
·         Don’t hang your dirty laundry out for the world to see.
·         You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.
·         Well it’s got to be somewhere!
·         The only reason he picks on you is because he likes you!
·         Did you put on clean underwear?  What will people think if you’re in an accident?
·         It’s all fun and games until someone gets and eye poked out.
·         Do you think I fell off the turnip truck?
Another one that was said with good intentions was “Oh honey, remember, sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.”  It was meant to make us suck it up and not take things too seriously, and that is a necessary life skill.  We can’t go around being all hyper sensitive and having our feelings hurt over every stupid comment thrown our way.
But it isn’t a true statement.  Words can and do hurt, sometimes irreparably.  Hebrews 4:12 says “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Marrow, the stuff at the very center of our bones, is not an easy thing to get to and it causes so much pain for a donor that the process is done under general anesthesia.  The pain that lingers can last for days or even weeks.  A bone marrow transplant can be a life saving treatment for thousands of people, but very few people sign up to be a donor and a good part of that reason is because of the pain that will be involved.

In a Huffington post, Susan Smalley, PhD writes “I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others.”   Sounds like bacteria, or an amoeba or something.  Have you seen the news lately about the brain eating amoeba?  I never even knew that anything like that existed.  But apparently there is this little, microscopic organism that can crawl up your nose while  your swimming in warm water recreation areas and then goes on a hunt for food.  Probably the grossest thing I’ve ever read about.  There is no cure, and only 1 person has ever survived.  Certainly makes me think twice about taking a dip in the local swimming hole.  Eeeewwww.
We take precautions all the time to avoid pain and suffering, for ourselves and our loved ones.  We don’t sign up to be bone marrow donors because it will hurt, and now people everywhere are buying nose plugs to protect themselves from water dwelling ravenous amoeba; we wear seat belts in the car and helmets when we ride a bike; we get anesthetized before a dental procedure and get our prescription drugs to take after; we go to the beach with a bottle of sunscreen and a bottle of aloe vera just in case the SPF wasn’t enough.  We prepare in all kinds of ways to avoid being hurt.  But how much do we prepare to keep from hurting someone else, especially when it comes to words?

Scripture is full of instruction regarding the need to keep our mouths in check and what can happen if we don’t.  Proverbs 5 :12 says “a worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth” and verse 19 lists “one who sows discord among brethren” among the 7 things the Lord hates.  So many times I open my mouth and word vomit just spews forth, with absolutely no forethought about the immediate and lingering effects my words are going to have.
Saying hard things is necessary at times but we have to be careful about the necessary part.  Many years ago a good friend of mine summoned the courage to take me aside and tell me that my ex-husband was having an affair.  The two of them were best friends and he agonized over telling me.  He talked to his mom, who is a psychologist, about whether he should or not and, knowing full well it would ruin their friendship, decided to do the right thing and tell me.  It was hard to listen to, but I was grateful for his courage to confirm what I already knew but couldn’t prove.  It was brutal stuff, but necessary to right a terrible wrong. 

Recently I found myself seeing something going on around me I didn’t like.  Determined to get to the bottom of things and help make it right, I began to do some amateur detective work.  Filled with zeal to fix what I saw as an injustice I took my arsenal full of “they saids” and dropped it into the lap of my friends, without ever even considering what the ripple effect would be.

Unlike my friend from the past, who thought long and hard about whether to tell me or not, even seeking wise counsel from his mom and weighing out the outcome, I just marched blindly in and dumped a pile of garbage in these friends laps and just stood there.  “Here you go, here’s a mess I found for you.  See ya!” 
Unlike my friend from the past, who had actually been a witness to my husband’s infidelity, seeing him with the other woman,  all I had were words and opinions of others which is basically nothing but gossip.  Proverbs 5:19 in real life.

Proverbs 16:28 says:  Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends. (CEV)  And Proverbs 25:23 says:  As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger! (NLT)
In my misguided enthusiasm to FIX IT, I unwittingly became not the hands and feet of Jesus, but those of the devil.  Watching the hurt on my friends faces as I backed up my dump truck full of refuse and let ‘er rip, I saw Satan laugh, and I went away and cried. 
My friends are gracious and kind and they forgave me for sticking my nose into something I shouldn’t have, but that old saying about sticks and stones, well it just isn’t true.  Words are one of the most powerful weapons in all the world.  They have the ability to encourage, build up, and heal, or bruise, wound, and destroy.   And they can never be erased or taken back. 

I learned a hard lesson that day, in thinking before I speak.  It preaches easy, but isn’t so hard to put into practice.  Lord, I pray you will give me a pause, a 3 second network delay before I open my mouth in the name of MY justice.  Help me to see down the corridors of time at the effect my words could have.  And if there is a potential for harm, give me the discipline to shut my mouth. 

No comments:

Search Engine Submission - AddMe