“Oh, you’re stupid.”
“You can’t be on our team.”
“Nobody likes you.”
Unfortunately, we adults say some pretty mean things too. It just comes out differently. Sometimes our hurtful words show up in statements of anger. Other times they show up in gossip, behind-the-back conversations, or simply the sarcastic put-down. And at other times the words we intend to be funny or witty cross the line, and nobody leaves the conversation feeling good about what was said. Most of the time? “Being mean” is not the intent. But just like children, the words that sting our hearts just feel…mean.
The great woman of faith, Amy Carmichael, said, “If, in any way, I belittle those who I am called to serve…if I can easily discuss the shortcomings or the sins of any man or woman…then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.” Her statement challenges me every time I read it.
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)
Oh, it is so easy to get caught up in conversations about other people’s business, isn’t it? Or to be swept away by the drama and emotion created when someone has stumbled. We start to hear bits and pieces of someone’s tragedy or failings, and it’s like a bad accident. We can’t turn away. Too often we quickly become experts on what really happened, or why something bad happened, and our words just keep providing oxygen to a fire that needs to be extinguished rather than fanned.
It’s during those moments that we need to go back to our Sunday School days and remember what we were taught in the song,“O be Careful Little Eyes.”
“O be careful little eyes what you see…
O be careful little ears what you hear…
O be careful little hands what you do…
O be careful little feet where you go…
O be careful little mouth what you say.”
The lesson? Be careful! We have control over what conversations we participate in. We can choose our words and our tone. We are called to be mindful and intentional about our every word, action, and decision.
Our words matter. Let’s choose them wisely. Let’s be kind today.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
What a silly rhyme.