NORMAN — Words can have power and influence on the ones to whom we speak… and on ourselves as the ones who speak.
There is no saying more incorrect than the childhood chant that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Long after we have healed from the pain inflicted by sticks and stones, the hurt caused by certain words can be felt for years.
Words are more than the tools we use to communicate information or ideas; the words we say to ourselves and others create the reality and the meaning out of which we live.
It is fair to say that we are inundated with words from all the various media outlets that cry out for our attention. There are so many words that we begin to lose sight of how powerful they can be. And yet, all around us, in the world of advertising and politics for example, people are crafting words to influence not only our ideas but also our feelings, our choices, and our desires.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that most religious traditions have something to say about our words, our language, and our speech. It is easy, and not uncommon, to use the words of scriptures to speak out against a variety of immoral acts. But, for example, in Ephesians, right there in the middle of words about fornication and impurity of any kind, there are words about obscene, silly and vulgar talk (5:3-5).
In his letter, James has some strong words to say about the power of the tongue, describing it as having a power of its own that shapes the heart of the speaker (3: 1-12). Along with putting away bitterness and wrath and malice, Paul encourages us to set aside wrangling and slander as well.
Mr. Brummitt was my junior high Sunday school teacher. One week the lesson was focusing on Ephesians 5:29: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”