The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4 NIV
Are words hurtful? Have you ever known someone that could cut another person down with their words? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Wow, thinking about that quote makes me shudder to think how naive we as parents are when we teach that untruth. Sure, it’s ok to tell our kids that words shouldn’t hurt us, but the truth is they do. We can pretend that they’re just letters in the alphabet but many times those letters form words of hurt and deceit.
How far can words penetrate? I guess it depends on the thickness of your skin. Metaphorically, we’ve all heard the saying, “You need to grow thicker skin.” This refers to how we deal with negative comments and insults. Some of us have built up that layer of “thick skin;” meaning we don’t allow petty arguments or comments to bother us. Some of us are selective in what we allow to pass through our skin. We don’t care about most comments unless they deal with the big three: our families, our religious beliefs, or (most recently) our political beliefs. The last group in this category is the thin skin folks. This applies to those of us whose skin is so transparent; you know what we’re thinking before you say it and your words, when hurtful, deal a crushing blow to our spirits.
Whether your skin is impenetrable or absorbs negativity like a Bounty paper towel, we need to learn to trust God in times where we need help using our words. Many times when we feel attacked, we want to retaliate without thinking how our words will reflect on the One we love most of all, God. God does not want us to cut others down or prune our friends with hurtful words that will only result in branches that will not reach out to us anymore. Proverbs 15:4 says, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Using hurtful words cut us off from those we love the most. We lose sight of God’s desires and cease to have any positive influence over those we care about.
Yes, words are powerful. So what do we do when words betray us or cut us down? Put on your “Holy Spirit skin screen.” You heard me right; I didn’t say “sun screen,” I said, “skin screen.” When you feel put down and angry towards someone or a particular situation, stop and pray or open your Bible to see what God’s Word says. Jesus didn’t retaliate against those who called Him names and beat Him physically. He chose to love. Through prayer and reading God’s Word the Holy Spirit gives us the best protection to cover our weak flesh against the worst comments the world can hurl at us. When we are attacked, we should retaliate with a tongue that is healing and loving, not hurtful. So take heart, those of you with thin skin, you are protected with the best defense God can offer.
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Action Item |
Does your life and your speech imitate God? Do you find yourself wanting to retaliate when you feel wronged by another? Take time this week to write down individuals who have gotten under your skin. Ask God to help you turn the other cheek and apply forgiveness and love instead of retaliation.
God, it is hard when someone is negative towards me. The desires of my flesh tend to get in the way of what Your will is in my life. Help me to speak love and forgiveness over those who have wronged me. Allow me to plant seeds of hope and life with my tongue and speech.
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